From the Farm and My Favorite – Composting in the Winter!

Welcome! It’s Friday everyone! Yippee!

This week went fast for us despite the various health issues that we were dealing with. We get to visit with the family this weekend. It’s been a while.

What was your week like? We’d love to hear more about it.

Since we live in the southwest, winter here isn’t as bad as in the north or along the East Coast. You may be surprised to learn that you can still compost no matter what the weather is like during the winter where you live. Keep reading to learn more about composting during the winter.

It’s a good chance that you’ve heard about composting even if you’ve never tried it. It is said that 23% of the waste in U.S. landfills is yard clippings and food trash. If more people composted, we could keep out of the landfills. Here are the things make up an average compost bin:

1. Browns: Dead leaves and plants, as well as sawdust from untreated wood, and shredded newspapers.

2. Greens: Leftover fruit cores and vegetable peels. Grass clippings and other greenery.


3. Moisture: Content in a compost bin that need moisture without becoming soggy.

4. Heat: Organisms that create heat and that help break down organic material into compost.

5. Oxygen: Add oxygen by regularly turning the content which will prevent bad odor from forming.

Start by layering the browns and greens in a compost bin. You can either build one or buy one – links are at the end of the article. Add water as needed to keep the compost pile moist. Add oxygen by turning the pile regularly. During winter months, if it gets cold where you live, simply modify your composting technique to ensure your compost pile survives the winter.

Begin by saving food scraps indoors. You can get a kitchen compost bin which allows you to add scraps and keep a lid on it to reduce odors. Once the bin is full, take it outdoors and add it to the compost pile.

It is important to insulate an outdoor compost pile to help it retain its heat in colder weather. Insulating can be done by surrounding the compost pile or bin with hay bales, you could hang tarps around the compost pile to block harsh winter winds, you can cover the compost pile with leaves, or add sheets of Styrofoam over the compost pile to hold the heat in. Remember, though, if you use Styrofoam, to weigh it down so it doesn’t come off when the wind blows.

Here are some other tips for composting in the winter:

  • Be sure to empty any finished compost from the pile at the end of fall. Since composting slows down quite a bit during winter months, it is likely the bin will fill up faster. Clear out as much space as you can so you’ll have the room you need for winter.
  • Don’t turn the compost pile during the winter months. This will help lock in as much heat as possible and keep the beneficial bacteria thriving all winter long.
  • Shred or cut all materials to be composted into smaller pieces. The compost process slows down during winter months and smaller pieces will help keep it going by providing more surface to work with.
  • Build your compost pile in an area that gets plenty of sun in the wintertime.
  • If you have it, add nitrogen-rich items such as blood meal or fresh manure to speed up the decomposition process.
  • Instead of composting all fall leaves, save some in bags to add to the compost pile during the winter. They can also be used as an insulator.
  • Keep an eye on your compost pile when the spring thaw begins. If your pile is soggy, add brown content to help it dry out.

It is recommended that compost piles should begin at air temperatures and then heat up to 110 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit before gradually dropping back down over a course of several weeks. High temperatures speed up the decomposition as well as killing weed seeds and diseases. You can use a compost thermometer, but it is not necessary. If your entire pile freezes solid during the winter, it will be ok. The pile will thaw, and the microbes return to begin decomposing your pile when the warmer temperatures begin.