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Composting: The Year-Round Way

Just because it gets cold and snowy here in the winter doesn’t mean that you have to stop composting.

Just because it gets cold and snowy here in the winter doesn’t mean that you have to stop composting. Composting can be done year-round, including over the winter months. The decomposition process slows down but the compost pile will continue to work.

Decomposition slows down over the winter months which means the waste in the compost bin will not reduce down as quickly as it did through the spring and summer months; this could mean that space becomes limited in the compost bin. One nice thing about winter is that there tends to be less material to put in the compost, but even so space can become an issue. If you have a small sized compost bin, it is a good idea to empty out the finished compost and place it in the garden, or store it in a dry space until the following spring. Some of the compost can be left in the compost bin and mixed in with the new material to help with the decomposition next spring. When starting a new compost bin, add a layer of sticks and twigs to the bottom of the compost bin and then add a layer of brown material. Brown material could be dried leaves, grass, wood chips and shavings, straw, shredded newspaper, etc. The next layer would be a layer of green waste such as fruit and vegetable debris, coffee grinds, tea leaves, disease-free plant debris, and grass clippings. Continue to alternate with a layer of brown, then green. To help with the brown layer over the winter months, keep a couple of bags filled with dried leaves near the compost bin so that you can add them to the bin as needed.

“The decomposing bacteria will continue to munch away in temperatures as low as -15 Celsius..."

The decomposing bacteria will continue to munch away in temperatures as low as -15 Celsius, which is something to consider when deciding where to place your compost bin. Choose a sunny location, and adding some insulation such as hay, straw or bagged leaves to surround the bin will help keep things warmed up. Even if the outer edges of the compost freeze, the inside can still be warm enough to work if you are doing your brown, green layers by adding indoor kitchen scraps under the insulating layer. It is also important to note that the freeze/thaw process helps the cell structure break down which quickens the decomposition process in the spring.

Not everyone enjoys going outside every day to add to the compost bin. Placing a pre-compost bucket such as a large pail or garbage can in a cool garage, will enable you to add daily scraps to the pre-compost bucket and then emptying it outdoors, when it becomes full. Sometimes getting to the compost bin can be a bit of a challenge over the winter months. If this is the case, you can have some large garbage cans with lids outdoors and use these as temporary compost bins. Place all the household scraps in the garbage cans and in the spring, these can be emptied out into the regular compost. Keeping the cans outdoors in the cold temperatures will freeze the scraps and help eliminate odours.

In the following spring when things begin to thaw, the compost can be turned. If it has become too soggy, add some straw, leaves, or shredded newspaper and mix it into the compost to help soak up the extra moisture.

Keeping up on the composting, even in the cold of winter is a great way to help reduce household waste, and add valuable nutrients to next year’s garden!

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