In Brief: How To Do Composting In Winter
Winter is coming, but that doesn’t mean that your plants should suffer. You can compost during the winter and provide a healthy and nutrient-rich growing environment year-round! Knowing how to do composting in winter will allow you to ensure your compost is filled with minerals, even when the cold comes. Here we will take a look at what you need to do and how to get your compost sorted in the wintertime.
It is not a secret that most experienced gardeners compost during the spring or summer seasons. This is because the other two seasons, autumn and winter, are used for piling up organic matter and waiting for decomposition.
However, you shouldn’t neglect the benefits of composting in the winter. In order to help you, we have decided to guide you through this process with a few tips and explanations.
Let’s take a look.
What Are the Benefits Of Composting In the Winter?
In order to find out whether you can compost during the winter, we need to go back to the basics and explain how composting works in the first place.
Basic Principle Of Adding Organic Matter To Soil
It is well-known that composting is one of the most effective methods for reducing landfill and food waste, as it accounts for more than 20% of total waste in the US.
There are two main types of items that you should be putting in a compost container – green and brown.
When it comes to the green group, we are talking about vegetable peels, rotten fruit, and cores. On the other hand, the brown group consists mostly of shredded paper, twigs, and leaves.
Keep in mind that you should provide three additional elements for optimal composting results. The first one is oxygen, and the easiest method is by turning the piled up waste every couple of days.
Also, the compost mix needs a bit of moisture (not sogginess), as well as heat (produced by the ingredients in the organic matter) in order to start the decomposition process.
In Which Situations?
While most people think that only spring and summer are good for composting, in reality, colder climates shouldn’t prevent you from composting.
However, you will need to make certain changes to traditional composting techniques in order to achieve optimal results.
How To Compost In the Winter
When it comes to composting in the winter, it all comes down to two different methods – indoor and outdoor.
While the first one doesn’t ask for any additional techniques, especially for optionally adding red worms to speed up the process, outdoor composting does differ quite a bit.
As GreenLiving suggests, the differentiating factor is that you will need ingredients that contribute to the optimal temperature in the bin, such as hay bales, StyroFoam, or fall leaves.
There are a couple of important points that you may want to focus on in order to make the most out of your winter compost.
First and foremost, we suggest that you empty all compost bins in order to make room for the organic matter that you will be piling up during the colder months.
What you can do is either fertilize the soil or put it away in another container that you will keep indoors until spring comes (harvest the compost). A key factor is whether you live in an area where winter brings significantly lower temperatures and strong winds.
If that is the case, then you will want to add the aforementioned hay bales or fall leaves in order to provide optimal temperature and heat to the organic matter.
Not only that, but while turning the ingredients every couple of days is recommended in regular conditions, you should keep this to a minimum during the winter.
The reason is that moving the brown and green matter frequently may result in a temperature drop. Last but not least, you may notice that, by the end of the winter, your compost will become quite soggy.
The best way to combat this is to add more shredded paper, leaves, or other brown matter that will soak up the excess moisture.
To learn more about the preparation process, check out this great video from Mlgardener:
Before starting with winter composting, you should decide on what your main goals are. As Mlgardener suggests, the main goal should be to reduce landfill and recycle food waste.
Also, you should strive to do that with as little as effort as possible. Lastly, keeping fruit flies and other wild animals away from your compost bin is something to be focused on.
The first step in winter composting is to find a proper composting bin (unless you already have one). The main difference is that, during the colder climate, there is no need for ventilation holes.
You can choose between different container/bin types, with our favorite being a galvanized trash can. The main reason is that it is made out of stainless steel and comes with a tight lid.
This goes a long way when it comes to keeping wild animals away, as well as making it easier to mix the contents (simply roll the can). Also, this type of trash can seems to retain heat much better than a plastic one, especially when you add hay bales and leaves.
Our second choice would be a common compost tumbler. Whichever option you go for, keep in mind that the compost bin should be just next to your front door.
This way, you won’t have to go through a lot of trouble to reach it once snow piles up.
Once you have this ready, the next step is to collect kitchen waste throughout the winter. As you probably know, when it comes to green matter, it is all about scraps from fruit, vegetables, eggs, coffee, and tea.
Keep in mind that residue from dairy, meat, and fish shouldn’t be included in the compost mix. For brown matter, it is all about bales, leaves, twigs, and shredded paper.
Give it a Grow suggests great tips on preparing your winter compost pile in this video:
During the colder days, you will want to keep the lid on and slightly move the ingredients every now and then.
On the other hand, if a warm period strikes, you should take the lid off until the freezing temperatures come back.
As winter is about to end, transport the organic matter to a regular compost bin that you use for warmer days. If it is too dry, add some water. If it is too moist, add more brown ingredients to soak it up.
There are a couple of things that you should keep in mind when it comes to winter composting. First and foremost, while you can freeze scraps and later add them to the compost bin, make sure that you add more bales or leaves in order to maintain adequate temperature.
Additionally, too much rolling/mixing of the ingredients is not good, either, as that will contribute to the organic matter’s temperature dropping.
Lastly, make sure that your compost bin is large enough, as transporting compost from one bin to another during the winter season is not the best solution.
Benefits Of Winter Composting
The first advantage is that you will be able to continue reducing landfill and keeping the momentum from the spring/summer season going.
Additionally, there is no risk of the organic matter overheating, and you will have a compost mix ready and set for when spring comes.
Thus, while winter composting may require a bit more effort, it is a great investment that will help you provide a healthy growing environment in the months to come.
Absolutely. While the decomposition process may not be as efficient as it is during the warmer months, piling up food scraps and creating a diversified compost is a wise choice.
Our personal recommendation is that you either use a galvanized trash bin or a compost tumbler. The latter works great for when it comes to mixing the ingredients without having to open the tumbler and risk having the temperature drop.
How fast the organic matter is going to decompose depends on the surrounding conditions, such as oxygen, moisture, and heat. This is why you will want to ensure that the tumbler is almost completely full and has some form of insulation, like the aforementioned bales or StyroFoam.
What you should try and do is provide adequate insulation and make sure that the bin/tumbler is not only half-way full. The thing is, the more matter that is piled up together, the better the heat retention will be. Thus, large bins with small amounts of organic matter aren’t good for anything but simple storage.
There are a couple of tricks that you could try out. First and foremost, you should try to divide your food scraps/brown matter into smaller bits. The main reason is that this will help decompose the matter faster. The other tip is that you should go ahead and make sure oxygen is constantly flowing – aerating the bin will further encourage the desired decomposition.
We did our best to explain whether composting in the winter is possible, as well as how it works.
Frankly, apart from a couple of differences mostly related to heat retention and moisture, it is similar to spring/summer composting.
Even if you are just starting out, it shouldn’t be anything that is too complicated!