Can I Compost in Winter?

leaves for composting in winter

Have you ever asked yourself, "Can I compost in winter?" If so, keep reading. You'll find out all the details about winter composting.

Composting Basics

Chances are you've at least heard of composting and have an idea of what it entails even if you aren't currently doing it. The EPA estimates that yard and food waste accounts for 23 percent of U.S. waste. Just think how much trash we could keep out of the landfills by composting. Here's the makeup of the average compost bin:

  • Greens: This includes food waste such as vegetable peels and leftover fruit cores. It also includes grass clippings and other greenery.
  • Browns: This includes things like dead leaves and plants, shredded paper and sawdust that comes from untreated wood.
  • Heat: The organisms in the pile create heat that helps break down the organic materials into compost.
  • Moisture: The contents in the compost bin need moisture without becoming soggy.
  • Oxygen: Adding oxygen to the pile by regularly turning the contents prevents bad odors.

The greens and browns are layered in the compost bin which you can make yourself or purchase. Water is added as needed to keep the pile moist and the oxygen is added through turning. The main challenge in winter composting is the cold temperatures that lower the pile's overall temperature.

Can I Compost in Winter?

The short answer is yes. Composting efforts don't need to stop when the mercury drops below freezing. You will need to modify your composting techniques to account for the cold weather.

Indoor Composting

Kitchen compost bins are a good way to save up your food scraps during the winter months. Once the indoor bin gets full, take it outside to the main compost bin. This saves trips outside during the cold weather. Vermicomposting, which simply means using worms in the compost bin, is another indoor option. Red worms are used to help break down the organic materials faster.

Outdoor Winter Composting

Insulating an outdoor compost bin helps it retain heat in cold weather. You can add insulation materials to your regular compost bin or build your own insulated compost bin. Ideas for insulating your bin include:

  • Hay bales surrounding the bin
  • Tarps to block the wind
  • Fall leaves
  • Sheets of Styrofoam

Benefits of Winter Composting

Why would you bother composting during the winter months? After all, you aren't digging in your garden once the ground freezes. If you need some motivation to keep your composting efforts going, consider these reasons.

  • You'll continue reducing the amount of waste you send to the landfill.
  • The compost momentum you've established during the summer months will continue so you keep on track.
  • Your compost pile is prepared when the temperatures once again start to rise.
  • Winter composting means no risk of an overheating compost pile.

More Winter Composting Tips

  • Store some of your fall leaves to add throughout the winter. They also serve as a good insulator.
  • Cut all compost materials into smaller pieces since the composting process slows considerably during the winter months.
  • Stop turning the pile during the winter months to lock in as much heat as possible.
  • Empty the finished compost in late fall to make extra room. Since the composting slows down in winter, the bin will fill faster. You'll want all the free space you can get going into the winter months.
  • If your pile is soggy in the spring as it thaws, add more browns to dry it out.

Keep Composting

The next time you find yourself wondering, "Can I compost in winter?" you'll know the answer and how to do it. With a little extra effort, your compost pile can continue throughout the winter, allowing you to jump right in with full-fledged composting when the snow melts and the summer sun shines.

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Can I Compost in Winter?