Composting in Winter
The cold weather and the dark nights make us far less inclined to get out into our gardens. The garden waste collections might stop, but nature doesn’t. Throughout the winter, there will be plenty of leaves, food waste, and other materials that you can turn into compost, so that by the spring, you will have plenty of lovely rich compost for your garden.
What can go into compost?
Green waste: Grass cuttings, leaves, and other garden waste and food waste from chicken bones to potato peel, and used teabags.
Brown waste: Dead leaves and plants, shredded paper and even sawdust from untreated wood can be added to a compost heap. These items give it some bulk and richness.
The key to good compost
A compost bin: A good container will provide the optimal conditions needed to transform the waste into compost, and you will get to avoid having a big pile of decaying rubbish in your garden!
Heat: Compost is self-heating. As organisms break the waste down naturally, the resulting chemical reactions raise the temperature of the pile, which helps it to break down even further.
Moisture: Most materials put on a compost heap become moist as they break down, and help to speed up the process throughout the entire pile. You can always add some water to it if it seems dry.
Oxygen: You will need to turn the compost heap regularly to help oxygen to permeate it. This will help it break down and prevent nasty odours forming.
What to do when the temperature drops
Cut up waste
Waste will decay more slowly when the weather is colder, so breaking the food and garden waste into smaller pieces will help keep the composting process to keep going.
Use an indoor food caddy
Using an indoor caddy for food waste will help the materials decay faster thanks to the warmer temperature, plus it means fewer cold trips to your compost heap!
Insulate your compost bin
Your compost heap might need a little help to retain warmth in the winter, so you can cover it with cardboard, Styrofoam, or even bits of an old carpet.
Keep your compost pile moist
Winter rain and snow will keep your compost heap moist, but occasionally it might need a little help. You can throw a bucket of dishwater or water from your mop bucket on the pile to moisten it. The ammonia from the mop water is a good source of compost-friendly nitrogen.
Stop rotating the pile
This will just let cold air in and slow down the composting process. Let nature do its thing.
Let your compost pile get some winter sun
Compost takes longer to rot when it’s cold. To help keep things moving along, put your compost bin where it will catch some winter sun. Keep the lid closed to seal in heat.
Save the leaves
If you have piles of leaves in your garden that you can’t fit into your compost bin, collect them, and put them in a bin bag with air holes punched in to allow the air in. If you leave the bag for a year or so, you will be left with a leafy mulch to spread around your garden.
Compost your Christmas waste
Be sure to include your Christmas lunch veggie peelings, Christmas cards, and even non-metallic wrapping paper in your compost pile.
When springtime arrives
If the compost is wet, add some dry leaves to soak up the excess moisture as you don’t want it to become too soggy.
Put the compost on your garden as and when it’s needed, you don’t need to empty your bin at the first sign of spring. Keep adding to your pile and rotating it.
If you end up with too much compost, ask your neighbours or a local allotment if they would like to share some.
Keep on composting, save local resources, and make your garden look beautiful.