Where to Place Your Compost Pile or Bin

Any pile of organic matter will eventually rot, but a well-chosen site can speed up the process. Look for a level, well-drained area. If you plan to add kitchen scraps, keep it accessible to the back door. Don’t put it so far away you’ll neglect the pile. In cooler latitudes, keep the pile in a sunny spot to trap solar heat. Look for some shelter to protect the pile from freezing cold winds which could slow down the decaying process. In warm, dry latitudes, shelter the pile in a shadier spot so it doesn’t dry out too quickly.

Build the pile over soil or lawn rather than concrete or asphalt, to take advantage of the earthworms, beneficial microbes, and other decomposers, which will migrate up and down as the seasons change. Uncovered soil also allows for drainage. If tree roots are extending their roots into the pile, turn it frequently so they can’t make headway.

Look for a spot that allows you to compost discretely, especially if you have neighboring yards in close proximity. Aim for distance and visual barriers between the pile and the neighbors.

36 thoughts on “Where to Place Your Compost Pile or Bin”

  1. My interest in composting has arisen from the need to keep the residential areas clean. At present, in our neighbourhood leaves and other trash in scattered form make the roadsides dirty and need to be swept frequently and transported to a landfill or dumped at other sites. I am wondering can’t we make pits on the roadsides,space permitting and sweep the leaves, grass and other non-plastic trash into such pits which after 3-4 months (or so) gets decomposed into manure. If this can be done it can help keep the neighbourhood neat and clean with minimum effort and save lot of cost too. Can readers advise helpful tips for this. Also, is there a liklihood of odor?
    My wife has been having an open space demarcated by a briick border and throwing in leaves, grass and vegetable/fruit peels and in a few months she harvests manure of high quality which is used to fertilize the plants in the house yard. No smell has ever emanated. I shall greatly appreciate advice/helpful tips. Thanx.

    1. @Harish Capoor, Yes, this will work however keep in mind you may begin to attract rodents if you have not already. Try to keep fruit and veggie peels buried deep within the pile.

    1. rosalyn, Yes, you can. However I recommend you drill some holes in the bottom so the water drains out. You could put another bin under it to collect the compost tea. Organic material will break down regardless, by using a bin or tumbler you’re simply creating an ideal environment to speed up the process. You may want to drill or cut holes on the sides and top as well, this will give the much needed oxygen to break down. Turn it every week or two.

  2. I have a 2-3 year old compost on the ground, I was told by my town that I need to move the compost becouse it is killing my neighbor pine tree. could this hapen? and how fare do i have to move it? Thanks for your help

    1. @Arnie, I have not heard of this problem with a pine tree but I have heard that some trees do not do well if their exposed roots are covered, it has something to do with the oxygen they need. Be neighborly and move it at least the distance of the longest branch. Typically the branches indicate how far the roots reach, so if you go beyond the roots you should be fine.

      1. The reason it is killing the pine tree is because of the acidity in the soil, which has likely changed from high acidity to low acidity. Low acidity will result in a slow death for pine trees and they can go decades looking terrible. As for the roots, it depends on the pine tree. Some have very shallow root structures, and others have sprawling roots that can go clear across a field.

  3. Hello. My husband was trying to be helpful and sprayed some Round-Up on the area I am going to put my compositor (open on the bottom) to kill the Bermuda/St. Augustine grass it will sit on. I was horrified and now scared to put my compositor in this spot because I fear contamination from the round-up. Is that a valid concern? If so, what do you recommend I do to clean up the area…if it’s possible! Also, how concerned do I have to be to have it sit on grass–was thinking the grass would grow into the compost.

    1. @Ellen

      I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Roundup is designed to become inert after it hits the soil, unless you are using that “extended” formula that has a different herbicide in it. So if you have waited a couple of days, it should be no problem at all, assuming it’s regular Roundup.

      Also, compost can actually be used to remediate contaminated soil, as studied by the EPA.

      Grass won’t grow into the composter, because it is dark in there and grass likes full sun. You can use a weedeater around the edge of the bin to keep grass from growing tall around it.

  4. I have a compost tumbler tyre and one bin has garden and household cuttings from various produce and there seems to be a lot on small nats in the bin what’s wrong?

    1. Jim, The gnats might be fruit flies, they’re harmless but annoying. When adding fruit scraps be sure to bury them deep within your compost and to keep it well mixed (aerated).

  5. We have just purchased a composte bin. We live in a high desert area and have no grass, few leaves and few pine needles. What can we use for the carbon component of the mix? Thank you.

    1. @Erin

      You can compost with mostly nitrogen and hardly any carbon. It just isn’t quite as quick or effective to compost that way. Since you are in the high desert, the nitrogen rich stuff should dry out and probably won’t cause bad smells like too much nitrogen can cause in wetter areas. You can add some shredded newspaper for carbon in a pinch, but don’t overdo it.

      In the end, everything decomposes. So if you can’t get the perfect mix of carbon and nitrogen, you’ll still be okay.

  6. We have a neighborhood garden about 70’x80 and we need to add compost before planting in the spring. We have started a compost pile, but I don’t think we will have much ready to use this spring, so we will need to purchase some. Can anyone give me an idea of how to figure out how much we will need? Thanks!

    1. @Shari, You would likely want to till in 3 inches of compost to the existing soil. You would need just over 50 yards of compost to achieve this.

  7. My neighbor has a compost bin that is attracting rodents. What should I do. I am about to construct a retaining wall to take care of some erosion and have asked the neighbor to consider moving the compost bin. He said it’s more trouble than I think. How do I get this neighbot to “think” my way. I don’t want rodents in my yard. Help

    1. @Eric, Typically rodents are attracted to compost piles if they are a source of food. If your neighbor could try burying his kitchen scraps within the pile it may keep the rodents from smelling the food. Otherwise, try getting some live animal traps and relocating the critters when caught.

  8. I just noticed my nieghbors dog urinating on my compost bin. Is it time to empty it,move it and start over?

    1. @Gerri

      It’s no big deal, and I wouldn’t worry about it. Urine is not a problem. Poop from carnivores or omnivores can have pathogens, but urine is typically not a problem. I’ve even heard of some organic gardening expert guy who recommends peeing directly into your compost to add nitrogen that way, believe it or not.

  9. Is a compost tumble better placed in the sun or will it still decompose in the shade? If it will take longer in the shade, about how much longer?

    1. @D0nna, Its best to put your compost tumbler in the sun, this will help it generate heat quicker and therefore speed up the composting process. If you live in a cool climate it can double the time it takes to break down. If you live in a hot climate then it will help a little less.

      1. Thanks for the quick response! It’s my birthday today and the tumbler is a present. It will be here any day now and I wanted to have in my mind where it needed to go.

  10. I just moved my compost bin from across the yard to against the house so make it easily accessible. I am concerned that it may attract unwanted bugs. I read prior responses about how to keep the rodents away, but what about bugs?

    1. @Lisa, The key to keeping bugs away is making your compost bin as active as possible. If you are the type of person to just let it go and not aerate, watered, and well mixed then there is a good chance you will have a few bugs. However keeping it will mixed and burying the kitchen scraps well within the compost bin will help make it less attractive to bugs.

    1. @Drew, A composter can be stored inside but you will need to be sure your composter has some type of bottom to catch the liquids etc. Its very common to vermicompost (worm composting) indoors.

  11. I am setting up an open bottom plastic compost bin. (Ketter E-Composter) The ground where I want to place it has barrier cloth installed. Do I need to cut the cloth away from under the bin area?


    1. @Karin, Yes I would cut away the weed barrier cloth so the worms can come and go from the soil to your composter. You don’t have to if you don’t care to have worms in your compost.

  12. I used to hate gardening and any type of yard work as it was an endless chore. Even lawn mowing was despised. Add allergies in the mix, and I was convinced it would never be for me! I became a reluctant gardener about 3-4 years ago when I moved back home to help care for my elderly mother. She has a large front and back yard, with various garden areas in all conditions, spilling over with multiple plants, flowers, herbs, weeds and so forth. She can no longer care for any of it but she loves it and hates removing anything that grows….weed or not…sigh.
    Fast forward a few years…..I have found gardening to be my new hobby. Very enjoyable! It is relaxing, rewarding and gets my creative juices flowing. As a beginner still, I still have a lot to learn, and spend considerable time researching and planning so I get the most out of my time and resources. Plus, my Mom is so happy with the results that she has given me full control of the yards to build as I please. She now comes out and gardens with me, and at 85 years, it has done wonders for her health and demeanor.
    I am very excited to get started this year and finding your site today has been a blessing. All the info I was looking for to get the job done right. With your help, I won’t be a beginner for much longer and the gardens will be a stand-out in the neighborhood.
    Thank you!!!
    Now for my question: My niece has a pet chinchilla which uses straw and hay for bedding and cage lining. Are the used materials ok/safe to use for composting or better yet, mulching? I can shake out any seeds from his food that may sprout as well as poops but what about the urine?
    I manage all the gardening on a very small budget so any other suggestions you have for free or cheap mulching materials would be appreciated. I think I have the compost under control now after reading your articles.
    I appreciate it! Thanks again.

  13. Hello, I have just purchased a garden bag. Similar to the builders sand bags. I have a small garden and I don’t know where to put my compost bag. The only bit that gets sun is where the table and chairs are and I’m worried the compost bag will smell. I could put it in the back of the garden bit the area is much shaded and doesn’t get any sun. Would it still be okay to put my composting bag there? I live in the uk.

  14. I have a question and hope you have an answer. I have a large composting barrel that sets on the ground. This last rain caused our salt water basin to rise and salt water got in to my barrel. When the water resided the barrel drained. Do you have any answers or ideas for the compost? Can I go on from here or must I start all over?
    Thank-you for your time.

  15. I have positioned my new plastic composter on stone slabs down the side of my house, I just need to know
    A. Will this be ok or has it got to be on grass/ soil
    B. Will it start to smell in future months?


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