There are only TWO kinds of effective compost piles:

  • Hot-batch (thermal) - turned on schedule thru 5 stages
    • Except ASP - which need no turning until harvest
  • Cold Piles - without any turning (may take years)
    • Includes Continuous-Add with turning 'as needed' to harvest

Within each of those kinds there are many ways to compost.

What you see in the "Compost Piles" photo in the right sidebar is a hot-batch (thermal) [stands-on-its-own] binless pile that started at 5 cubic yards, created using the Frame Technique which does not need any type of containment to hold the pile together after completion.

The Frame Technique was invented by The SoilGuy in 1985, in response to a Homeowner Association covenant that prohibited use of any type of structure as a composting containment/bin on the subdivision property - in an attempt to keep residents from composting (due to a mis-guided concern involving possible "odor" and "rodent" issues - which properly-managed compost does not contend with.

A Binless Pile can be any size over one cubic yard (3' x 3' x 3') and is constructed using a rectangular, size-adjustable frame made of half inch plywood and a few pieces of 2 x 4 lumber and some wood screws.

The pile in the photo was originally 5' wide, 7' long and stood 4' high (5.18 cubic yards) This photo shows the pile following the 2nd turn, and while it has decomposed/shrunk to 4'6"' wide and 6'9" long and 38" high, due to SETTLING by gravity and SHRINKAGE due to rapid thermal decomposition. You can read more about this kind of pile within the link: How Soilguy Composts

Hot Batch Piles

"Hot" means 'thermal' - heated by means of exponential thermophilic bacterial reproduction and some chemical change activity. "Batch" means the pile is made at one time (perhaps over several days), then NO additional solid material is added with possible exception of some ingredients to assist in attaining a 2nd heat (after the 1st turn).

Also in this category are Aerated Static Piles (ASP).

ASP are the fastest, easiest, most cost-effective method of composting to achieve highest quality of product. No other method (to date) can achieve what ASP's can accomplish.
BUT - there is a required methodology that must be followed, for ASP to work properly. To date, I know of NO commercial composting operation ANYWHERE that has succeeded in utilizing ASP, simply because they don't know and comply with the SCIENCE behind the technique. Just sticking some aeration tubes under a huge pile and blowing air through the pipes - does NOT constitute ASP.

"Cold" means that the pile was made not to heat (no turning) - or maybe it was supposed to heat - but didn't. In most cases a 'cold' pile is a 'continuous-add' pile whereby feedstock variety is intentionally 'out of C:N range' and new feedstocks are added throughout the full life of the pile - up to several weeks before it is ready to harvest/screen.

Click Here to see: Compost Containments
Click Here to see:COMPOST PILES