Winter Composting: Yes, That’s Right

Winter Composting: Yes, That’s Right
  • Opening Intro -

    One of the last things you may be thinking of right now is your compost pile.

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After all, mid-winter is all about making plans for spring, including starting your garden inside and transferring select plants outside when conditions warrant. Those sprouts can get a head start and yield an earlier harvest when started inside.

Winter Composting Tips

Your compost pile, however, does not have to remain dormant. Sure, covering it for the season makes sense especially to regulate the amount of moisture and heat found therein. A heavy snow pack or back-to-back soaking rains can drench your compost turning it into a soppy mess. It will also deaden the composting process in its tracks.

To work effectively all winter long, compost piles must have at least one cubic yard of material. The larger the pile, the better for insulation — and it is that insulation that generates its own heat, even when outside temperatures are low.

At work are microorganisms that decompose your stew of compost and are especially apparent in manure and bedding. The body heat from these tiny creatures also creates heat, bringing your compost pile up to an optimum 130 to 150 degrees during the warmer months. During the winter you help your cause by insulating the surrounding pile with hay or straw bales.

Use a Compost Thermometer

If you own a compost thermometer, you can check that temperature regularly to gauge effectiveness. If the temperature inside the pile drops below its optimum level, you can turn the pile to increase the flow of oxygen. And oxygen is the ingredient that microorganisms require to break down compost.

Will your compost pile break materials down fast in the winter? No, as cold weather will still have an impact even if insulated. However, with regular care you can keep the composting process going all winter long, perhaps having enough finished compost to add to your flourishing garden bed this spring.

Composting Materials

You can continue to add fresh material to your compost pile throughout the winter. Strive for a 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio to maintain a proper balance. Acceptable carbon-based products include pine needles, stray, shrub prunings, leaves, newspapers, corn cobs and stalks, dryer lint, wood chips, and shredded paper.

For nitrogen ingredients, you can add in fruit and vegetable scraps, most table scraps, coffee grounds, tea leaves, and flower cuttings. Once your lawn springs back, add in grass clippings, but not too much as you’ll mess with the ratio. And you’ll know you crossed the divide when your pile begins to stink, a problem that can easily be solved by adding in additional carbon-based product.

See AlsoUse Your Compost Pile All Year

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Categories: Garden Maintenance

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Auto Trends Magazine", an online publication. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and weblogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".