Choosing a Location for Your Backyard Composting System

This is the second post in the backyard composting series.

How big of an area will I need?

Home composting doesn’t have to take up a huge area to be successful.   The goal is to have a pile that is roughly 3ft x 3ft x 3ft or similarly a 4ft tall gravity pile.  This size will help you achieve the high temperatures needed for thermophilic composting. 

Where should I locate my compost pile?

You will want to site your composting area in an out-of-the-way area but still close enough to ensure you monitor and tend to the pile regularly.  Also close enough to the house where adding kitchen waste is an easy task. Having a water spigot nearby is important, too.  Unless you live in an area where precipitation is consistent and reliable, you will need to moisten your pile. The amount of sun the pile receives isn’t as important or success, since the heat in the pile comes from the biology breaking it down. Locating your pile close to where you will use the compost is a good idea if its possible, too.

  • Out of the way but still where you will remember it exists
  • Close enough to your kitchen to easily add material to the pile
  • Near a water spigot
  • If it can be in the shade a protected from wind, that will help with moisture levels
  • Locate it near where the finished compost will be used

    Here in the high desert of Colorado, if you can find a shady location, that will help reduce evaporation.  

What should I use to contain the pile?

Today there an overwhelming selection of composting containers. Tumblers and barrels and bins oh my!    

The bare minimum that you need is a clear area of dirt and a tarp.  Build your pile directly on the ground and cover it with a tarp is the simplest and most cost effective method; and the one I prefer to use myself. 

The next most cost effective method is using pallets to build a square (bin) to hold the materials.  This option is good for people who prefer a cleaner appearance.  Some people like to build it so the sides are easily removed to make turning easier.  Since I prefer the gravity pile method, I use my pallet bins to hold the material I collect to build my piles with (especially for high C material like leaves, straw, paper and cardboard).

Compost tumblers and barrels vary in cost greatly.  Personally I haven’t had much success with these options. Mostly due to the fact that I cannot easily maintain proper moisture and size making the composting process more difficult than it needs to be.  

Basically you choose what works best or you as long as you can maintain moisture, access and pile size (3 ft x 3ft x 3ft approx). 


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