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Composting in the Winter

Updated on November 9, 2007
Compost bin
Compost bin

Depending on where you live, the winter season can pretty much bring all garden activity to an icy halt each year. And that can include your use of the compost bin. But with a few added tips, you can continue to use your compost pile and keep those food scraps out of the garbage.

Empty as much finished compost from your bin as you can. You won't actually need it right now, though it could be used with indoor houseplants. So store your rich finished compost in a sealed container for easy use next spring. The reason you need to clear out space in your bin, is because there is very little decomposition over the winter and your waste material will build up quickly. During the warmer months, the levels quickly go down as the material breaks down. When it is cold, it will likely freeze into a big lump and just sit there. So you need to have space for several months of organic waste.

Make it easy to access. Hopefully, your composting bin or pile is already within quick reach, but if you have it too far from your door, you will likely give up on the process when the snow is up to your behind. If your bin is light enough after the emptying recommended in my last tip, then you might want to move the whole thing closer to your back door. If you can't, then perhaps have a secondary container that you can place closer to the house. During the cold months, its harder to keep up your motivation to continue composting. So make it easy on yourself.

To reduce the number of trips out into the cold, keep your scraps in the kitchen for a few days before venturing outside. Depending on the amount of organic waste in your house, this shouldn't be a huge problem. If you find that there is a smell problem, use a lidded container or cover your scraps with used coffee grounds. A container with a lid works best, but I have found the moisture build-up to contribute to a lot of mold growth if you leave your compostables in there for even just a few days.

Keep some extra dried leaves handy from your autumn yard cleanup. Add to your pile through the winter to help insulate your compost. If you live in very cold areas, this won't likely help the decomposition, but if places with milder winters, the extra insulation could be just enough to keep your pile above freezing. Material does create its own heat as it breaks down, and the leaves will help hold that in.

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