Preparing for Winter Composting

I’m a novice composter.  Since I set up my first back yard compost bin  a few weeks ago, I’ve been  wondering what to do during the winter months.  So this morning I did some research and came up with a few ideas and plans.

The colder weather presents two dilemmas:  trudging out in snow and ice to the bin(not a problem if it’s nearby) and producing enough heat for the decomposition process. There are three key tactics that people suggest:

  1. Over the winter months transfer kitchen waste to a garbage can outside the back door.  In warmer weather, add and mix the saved organics with browns in the yard bin.
  2. Prepare to compost throughout the winter, knowing that whatever you do it will “cook” slower than in the summer. (Read on for some winter tips.)
  3. Use an indoor system such as a worm bin.

The first option is tempting, because my compost bin is a good walk from the house.  However I want to keep the second option open–ie using the compost bin–because the idea of dumping a large quantity of waste in the spring isn’t very appealing.  People praise indoor systems, but I prefer to use the outdoors–for now at least.

How to Prepare for Winter Composting–These are  ideas I’ve gleaned about what to do in the fall to prepare for winter composting:

  • Save dried leaves and shred them, if possible, for mixing.  Since my property has all evergreens, I’ve been using dried grass instead of leaves.  I hope this works.  It’s best to store dried organic material in a solid bin, rather than a plastic bag, as rodents may be tempted to nest during winter months.  If stored properly, dried autumn leaves can provide a great compost mix throughout the year.
  • Remove most of any finished compost from the compost bin to allow room for winter accumulation (breakdown is much slower in cold temperatures). Leave some finished compost in the bin to promote decomposition of fresh material.
  • During the winter make layers of greens and browns as usual, but don’t mix it up so that heat doesn’t escape.  Some people put insulation, such as bales of hay or plastic, around the outside of their bin.

What will I be doing?  To make life easier,  I’ll put a garbage can near the back door–so I’ll have a choice when my kitchen bin is full—I’ll either empty it into the  temporary can nearby or take the longer journey out to the composter. I’m excited about this composting business, even though I’m starting in the cooler weather.  I’m reducing garbage, which costs $2.00 per bag for disposal, and creating a substance that will enrich my garden in the spring (or later on when its ready).

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