-Compost Pile Size & Location
A good size for a backyard compost pile is three to four feet high by four feet wide and as
long as possible. This size is large enough to hold heat and still small enough for good
air flow. Locate your pile close to your garden and a water source, and away from
wooden structures and your neighbors. Yard wastes can be simply layered Into a heap
in an Inconspicuous area on your lot. A tidier method uses simple structures that confine
the pile. The Compost Education Center has many types of bins on display that are
home-built or commercially purchased.
An open pile blends into the land-
scape of a garden or semi-wooded
Plastic structures do not decom-
pose. Note that several commercial
bins are smaller than recommended
(less than 3'x3'x4').
Four wooden pallets may be tied
together to build a free recycled unit.
Multiple units separate fresh yard
wastes in one bin from actively-
composting materials in another.
A third unit holds mature compost
Twelve feet or more of chicken wire
or snow fencing can be tied into a
corral. Optional hooks or clips make
it easy to open.
Enclosed units prevent access by
small animals and hold in odors.
They are designed to compost food
A backyard compost pile is made by mixing grass clippings (green, high-nitrogen
material) with dry leaves (brown, high-carbon material), soil and water. Mix periodically
to add air. Chopping or shredding the materials with a hatchet, mower, or shredder
speeds the process. This recipe sets up an ideal environment for nature's
decomposers to work.
1. Layer one part green materials with two parts brown materials:
Green Materials with High Nitrogen Content Include:
Grass,Weeds and Non-Woody Garden Prunings
Spent Flowers, Bouquets
Farm Animal Manures (cow, horse, chicken, sheep)
Fruit & Vegetable Garden Scraps
A Sprinkling of Blood Meal or Cottonseed Meal
Use one part green or one-third of the compost pile
Brown Materials with High Carbon Content Include:
Dead Brown Plants or Potted Plants
Finely-Chopped woody Brush, Corncobs
Use two parts brown or two-thirds of the compost pile
2. Sprinkle a half-inch of soil or mature compost every few layers to provide the
microorganisms necessary for the decomposition process.
3. Add water to keep the pile as damp as a wrung-out sponge.
4. Mix or turn periodically with a garden fork. Microorganisms need oxygen and
small particle size. The more often you turn the pile, the quicker it breaks down.
Notes: Do not add meat, dairy products, diseased plant material, dog or cat wastes to a backyard compost pile. A compost pile made
with predominately green materials (i.e., grass) may become soggy and release unpleasant odors. If this happens, break the heap
apart and rebuild it, adding layers of brown materials and tum more often to dry out the pile.
One part green and two parts brown, Makes the compost turn to ground.
Add some water and some soil. Turning is the only toll.
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Ann Arbor Waste Watcher Fall/Winter 1991/92