If you are new to composting, you will definitely think about whether you can compost during winters or not? Obviously, composting requires a higher temperature to break down waste and organic matter. But fortunately, you can still compost during winters. Composting slows down when the temperature gets lower, but it doesn’t stop at all.
Microorganisms like fungi and bacteria, decomposers like earthworms, sow bugs, and pill bugs all can survive for many years on the compost pile and start decomposition of organic matter when they get the suitable temperature. So, if you want to compost in winter, you must follow the given valuable tips to get better results.
Helpful Tips for Winter Composting
Composting in winter requires some tricks and tips. Unlike summer or spring composting, you need to put some efforts into your winter compost. The following tips will surely help you in this matter.
Figure Out What to Compost
The first and foremost important thing to consider for winter composting is to decide what to compost in such weather. You can add kitchen scraps like fruits and vegetable peel, cores, and rinds. Pumpkin shells, coffee grounds, and paper filters are also good choices for composting. You can also put tea leaves and tea bags, but there shouldn’t be any stickers. Besides this, egg shells are another excellent option to choose for winter composting.
Materials to Avoid in Winter Composting
There is a long list of materials that you must avoid adding to your compost, either in winter or summer. Almost 50-70 percent of plants decrease their volume in winters, so you can use their leaves for composting, but you should be careful when selecting them. Some of the plant leaves or even some kitchen scrapes aren’t suitable for composting.
Please read a detailed guide on what not to put in your compost tumbler?
Harvest Finished Compost
Harvest the previous compost before you start winter composting. The compost pile builds up so quickly in winters because the decomposition process slows down due to lower temperatures. So, you will also require space, or you need your compost tumbler to be free for new composting. Harvest your previously made compost when it turns darker in color with an earthy odor. You can put your harvested compost in bins and tightly cover them with lids so you can use it whenever needed.
Add Leaves and Yard Clippings
Scrape from your kitchen is always nutrient-rich, while the scrape from the yard perfectly balances the entire compost. You must add straws, plant debris, and leaves to your winter compost. Well-balanced compost with yard clippings will be helpful in springs to fertilize your garden.
Layer Greens with Browns
The composting will be efficient if you continue to layer greens with browns in winters and summers both. Usually, people make a common mistake by adding only greens to the winter composting, which results in a stinky wet mess. Such kind of compost will not be beneficial for your garden at all. Thus, you should add browns to your compost pile also. If you don’t have brown materials for composting in winters, turn your pile in spring and add more browns to improve drainage.
Get the Right Ratio
A 30:1 is perfect for carbon and nitrogen in your compost pile in winters. Carbon is required for energy, and nitrogen is required for protein synthesis. This carbon to nitrogen ratio is ideal for microorganisms to break down the organic matter in the compost. So, try to put materials in your compost to help you achieve this ratio.
Temperature is one of the most significant factors of winter composting. The ideal temperature for composting lies between 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit as it increases the speed of decomposition. In the winter months degradation process of organic matter will be slower, but it will speed up instantly when the temperature rises. Track the temperature; if it’s getting too low, add nitrogen-rich material and turn your pile. These steps will increase the activity of microbes in winters.
You can use this compost in low-maintenance landscapes.
Moisture control is essential for composting, especially if you are living in high humidity areas. Composting on grounds will face moisture problems more than in bins and tumblers because moisture will also soak up from the soil. So, it’s better to use sealed compost tumblers and bins than to spread your compost on land.
Also Read the complete guide about: How to Use a Spreader to Spread Compost?
Another important thing is to water your compost for better decomposition. In this case, never forget to add dried leaves as they will absorb the excessive moisture. Overall, a tumbler is a great idea for winter composting.
Insulate the Pile
Insulation of composting pile is important for keeping it safe from drastic temperature changes. Especially in winters, you need to insulate your composting bin with piles of leaves and straw bales. Besides this, you can also insulate your bin from inside by creating a layer of 6-12 inches of leaves, sawdust, woodchips, etc.
Add Some Worms
During winters, worm composting, also known as vermicomposting, is the best alternative to regular composting. Worms will turn organic matter into nutritive-rich compost with their activities. You can use a plastic storage container and PVC pipe for worm composting. Make sure to monitor temperature and moisture for vermi compost as worms need specific temperature and moisture to work.
Skip Wood Ashes
Adding wood ashes to composting pile has more harmful effects than beneficial ones. Wood ashes in larger quantities can increase the pH of compost, and when the pH decreases from the optimum level, the activity of microbes will slow down. Most microbes work best at neutral to slightly acidic pH. So, skipping wood aches, especially in winters, will be an intelligent move for composting.
Composting is undoubtedly the best way to treat your household waste. You can compost in winter by adopting the right practices and with little care as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is composting possible at freezing temperature?
You can compost in winters through food scraps in a compost bin or a tumbler. The composting rate will depend upon the temperature and moisture conditions for sure. You can insulate your tumbler and add worms to speed composting in winters.
2. What happens if you do not turn your compost pile?
If you don’t turn your compost pile and let it sit in the same place, decomposition will take 6-12 months. The exact time will depend upon the temperature and moisture conditions for sure. The cooler the surroundings, the more it will take time to decompose. Similarly, moisture also affects the microbial activity for decomposition.
3. How to know that your compost is ready?
Compost is ready when it turns dark brown, crumbles in your hand, and smells like earth. If your pile is still warm, or you will see visible food content inside the pile, it indicates that your compost is not ready yet.