Composting in the winter is rather difficult in our area because the temperatures drop so low for what feels like months on end. Our winter season can start as early as the end of October and last until mid May.
While on average our temperatures remain below zero in the winter months it’s rare that we drop below -20 degrees Celsius. We do get hit by polar vortexes and cold fronts over the winter months as well, these events drop our temperatures significantly for several days in a row. Our lost recorded temperature was -42 degrees Celsius.
These temperatures make composting difficult because the compost needs warmth to continue to work. The bacteria in the compost bin will go dormant in cold temperatures and that will stop the composting process.
We are learning this winter how to keep the bin going. Through research and trial and error we want to pass on some tips and tricks to help you compost through the winter.
1. Use a compost bin with a lid. This will keep the snow out of your bin and therefore keep the temperature up. This will also stop snow from accumulating in a frozen compost bin and taking up space. Make sure the bin is in an easily accessible area so you are not discouraged during big snow dumps to compost.
We have a black bin which I feel also helps the temperature stay up in the compost bin. Our bin is in direct sunlight and on the edge of the driveway which Jon keeps plowed over the winter months.
2. Prepare for winter composting in the fall. Pile and store your leaves close to your bin so that you can place browns in the compost bin every time you add your greens (kitchen scraps).
It’s important to increase the amount of browns (nitrogen rich such as leaves, cardboard, sawdust and newsprint) over the winter because it helps to insulate the compost and keep the compost from becoming too wet during the spring thaw. If the compost becomes to wet in the spring it will become slimy and smelly.
3. We have not had any issue with fruit flies yet (knock on wood) but we have only been emptying our kitchen bin 1-2 days a week. The bin starts heating up in the house and when we add the kitchen bin to the outdoor bin our kitchen scraps are already warm.
Please note this method could attract fruit flies, so if you do this keep an eye on your kitchen bin.
4. During warm spells over the winter open your compost bin and give the greens and browns a good stir. Increasing oxygen to the bin will warm the compost and help break it down. We have some warm weather in the forecast and we will be stirring our bin this week.
If it seems dry add some warm water, however, monitor this closely, you do not want the compost to become slimy as it thaws in the spring.
If you do not use a bin and rely on a compost pile, increase the size of your pile as much as possible over the winter so it is warm enough to continue the composting process inside (even put a tarp over it to keep the heat).
If you have a greenhouse, keep your compost bin in the greenhouse. The greenhouse will keep the bin warm and the compost will heat type greenhouse during temperature drops.
Help your compost by cutting up or even blending your kitchen greens before adding them to the bin.
For general composting tips check out my blog post Here