How big should my compost heap be? (With table and examples) | GreenUpSide (2023)

Many gardeners like to use compost in their gardens, and for good reason. Composting is a great way to provide your plants with nutrients while recycling yard waste and kitchen scraps.

You can have an outdoor compost pile or you can use a bin to keep things organized. If you opt for a compost bin, you may be wondering how big it should be.

So how big should your compost bin be?A compost bin should hold twice the volume of finished compost you want. For example, if you want 100 cubic feet of compost, your bin should hold a volume of 200 cubic feet. This allows additional space for material that breaks down as it is composted.

Of course, the exact size of your compost bin will depend on the size of your garden and how deep you want to apply the compost. Some gardeners also choose to use 2 or 3 bins so they can have different compost piles at various stages so there is always a "new" pile and always a "finished" pile.

Let's take a look at how to figure out how big your compost bin should be.

How big should my compost bin be?

the size of yourcompost boxIt will depend on two things:

  • the size of your garden (the dimensions are length and width for a rectangular plot)
  • the depth of compost you want per square foot (how thick the compost layer will be)
How big should my compost heap be? (With table and examples) | GreenUpSide (1)

If you multiply these two numbers, you will have the volume of compost needed for your garden.

If you double that number, you'll know how much space you need in your compost bin. This doubling is responsible for the decomposition of the compost, which will lose about half its volume as it decomposes.

How do we know we need to double the volume? Good,According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the volume of a compost pile can be reduced from 55% to 73%, depending on the method used.

Similarly,Washington State University suggests that a compost pile will reduce to about half its volume during the hot composting phase.

The following table will help you estimate the approximate size of compost bin you will need, based on the volume of the compost bin. The volume of the compost bin you will need is calculated as follows:

(compost bin volume) = 2*(garden area)*(composting depth)


(compost bin volume) = 2*(garden length)*(garden width)*(composting depth)

When taking your measurements, be sure to use consistent units! Do not mix inches with centimeters or use inches for one dimension and feet for another.

(Video) 10 things NOT to COMPOST and WHY

Compost Bin Volume (cubic feet)Composting Dimensions (ft.)Compost bin volume (cubic meters)Composting Dimensions (meters)
up to 505x5x2Up to 1.41,5×1,5×0,6
50 a 10010x10x2
1,4 a 2,83x3x0,6
1,8 × 1,8 × 0,9
100 a 15015x5x2
2,8 a 4,34,6 × 1,5 × 0,6
1,8 × 1,8 × 1,2
150 a 20010x10x2
4,3 a 5,73x3x0,6
2,4 × 2,4 × 0,9
2,1 × 2,1 × 1,2
200 a 30015x10x2
5,7 a 8,54,6x3x0,6
2,7 × 2,7 × 1,2
300 a 40020x10x2
8,5 a 11,36x3x0,6
3,7 × 3,4 × 0,9
400 a 50025x10x2
11.3 a 14.17,6x3x0,6
6,4 × 3,7 × 0,6
3,7 × 3,4 × 1,2

Let's take an example to see how this would work in practice.

Let's say you have a garden that is 30 feet long by 20 feet wide. We'll also assume you want a 2-inch (1/6 foot) deep layer of compost throughout the garden.

So, according to the above equation, the volume of the compost bin would have to be:

(compost bin volume) = 2*(garden length)*(garden width)*(composting depth)

= 2*30*20*(1/6)

= 200 cubic feet

Based on the table above, we could use a compost bin with dimensions of 3 meters long by 3 meters wide by 2 meters high. This would make it easier to extract the compost from the bin, due to the low height.

We can also opt for a trash can with dimensions of 7 feet long by 7 feet wide by 4 feet high. This would be a good option if you need to save space (this container would occupy half the area of ​​the previous one).

In fact, we could even go for a cube-shaped box that is 6 feet on a side and 6 feet tall (6 x 6 x 6 = 216 cubic feet).

If you're crafty, you can build any of these compost bins out of wood. If not, or if you're in a hurry, you can buy an existing trash can that is the right dimensions.

If you can't build or find a proper size compost bin, don't worry. You can calculate the dimensions of any container by multiplying the length, width, and height. This will tell you if it will contain enough compost for your garden.

For example, a box 8 feet long by 8 feet wide and 4 feet deep would have a volume of 8*8*4 = 256 cubic feet, which would be large enough (with additional space) for our example garden. .

However, a box 6 feet long by 6 feet wide and 3 feet deep would have a volume of 6*6*3 = 108 cubic feet, which would not be large enough for our example garden. !)

Can you use a normal bin for the compost?

Yes, you can use any common container (barrel, bin or bin) for composting. However, you may need to make some modifications to better suit your new purpose as a compost bin.

Before putting yard waste in your compost bin, poke a few holes in the sides. This allows fresh air (with oxygen) to enter the compost and also allows excess water to drain away.

You may also want to build a hatch in the side of the bin to make it easier to remove the finished compost from the bin.

(Video) How to make Compost - The Simplest Easy Method To Compost Piles!

How big should my compost heap be? (With table and examples) | GreenUpSide (2)

If you build your own wood compost bin, be sure to avoid pressure-treated wood. Pressure-treated wood contains chemicals that you probably don't want in your garden soil.

You can also avoid using plastic containers that contain chemicals you don't want in your garden.

What is the best compost bin design?

The best compost bin design has two or three separate chambers. This project takes into account the fact that composting is done in different stages.

How big should my compost heap be? (With table and examples) | GreenUpSide (3)

For example, you might have a box to store "finished" compost that is fully decomposed, fresh, and ready to add to the garden. You may have another bin for “unfinished” compost, which has partially decomposed but is still warm.

A third box can be used to move the "unfinished" compost back and forth to rotate it. Turning the compost helps aerate it and also ensures that the materials are evenly mixed. Both the air and the mixture help the compost break down faster.

Instead of using compost bins, you may choose to use a compost mixer. A compost tumbler is a container mounted on a stand, with handles that allow it to be turned without the need for a pitchfork or shovel.

You can use two different cups side by side to keep “finished” and “unfinished” compost separate, as mentioned above.

Whether you have a bin or a cup, it helps to have an opening to scoop out the compost when you're done. compartment.

That way you can open the hatch and drop the compost (with minimal shoveling) right into the wheelbarrow for easy transport to the garden.

How often should the compost be turned?

You should turn your compost pile once or twice a week. Continue to do this as long as the stack continues to smoke when turned over.

This vaporization occurs due to the heat generated by the bacteria in the compost pile. Believe it or not, temperatures in a compost pile can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius).

If the pile doesn't seem to break despite frequent turning, it's probably too dry. In this case, it may be necessary to add some water by spraying the sink with a hose.

If the compost pile develops a foul odor, it may be too wet; in that case, you should add some dry material (such as sawdust or fallen leaves) to absorb some of the excess moisture. add manure to your pile, but these odors should go away with time.

How big should my compost heap be? (With table and examples) | GreenUpSide (4)
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For more information,Check out this article on composting from the University of Missouri Extension.

How long does it take for the compost to be ready to use?

According to the Iowa State University Extension, compost can take anywhere from 2 months to 1 year before it is ready to use.

On average, it will likely take 6-8 months for a compost pile to fully break down and be ready for use in your garden. However, a well-managed compost pile breaks down more quickly.

This requires regular turning to mix the materials and provide aeration. It also requires a good mix of green (nitrogen-rich) and brown (carbon-rich) materials in the compost pile.

How big should my compost heap be? (With table and examples) | GreenUpSide (5)

For more information on green and brown materials,check out my article on how to make compost.

Additionally, you will need to maintain proper moisture levels in your compost pile. This means adding water if the pile is too dry or adding dry material if the pile is too wet.

Finally, make sure you don't put things in your compost pile that won't break down quickly or things that attract pests.

For more information,check out my article on things not to put in your compost pile.


You now have a good idea of ​​how big your compost bin should be, based on the size of your garden and the amount of compost you need.

I hope this article has been useful to you; if so, share it with someone who can use the information.

No-dig gardening is a great way to improve soil health with a focus on compost; you can get more information here.

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What is the ideal compost pile size? ›

General Composting Rules

The composting pile should be at least 1 cubic yard (3' x 3' x 3'). Ideal size is a 3 to 5 foot square. Locate the composting pile on level, well-drained ground near a water source.

How do you arrange a compost heap? ›

Put down a thin layer of brown material — leaves, chopped stems, wood chips — and sift over it a thin layer of soil, compost, or manure. Sprinkle these with water, then start the serious layering: six to eight inches of browns, followed by two or three of greens, and then a sprinkling of the soil options.

What three things should not be in the compost heap? ›

DON'T add meat scraps, bones, grease, whole eggs, or dairy products to the compost pile because they decompose slowly, cause odors, and can attract rodents. DON'T add pet feces or spent cat liter to the compost pile. DON'T add diseased plant material or weeds that have gone to seed.

How many compost bins do I need? ›

The 3-bin system is useful primarily because it offers space to have compost at 3 different stages of decomposition. For example, you could put all your compost in one bin for a period of time — then stop adding to it, and start adding to a second bin while the first one finishes decomposing.

How long does it take for a compost pile to be ready to use? ›

Compost is ready to use after anywhere from one to 12 months, depending on the size of the materials placed in the compost system, the degree of management, and the intended use. Compost that will be used as a top dressing or mulch can be applied after the least amount of time.

Should compost pile be in sun or shade? ›

Should my compost pile be in the sun or in the shade? You can put your compost pile in the sun or in the shade, but putting it in the sun will hasten the composting process. Sun helps increase the temperature, so the bacteria and fungi work faster.


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