Winter composting: is it too cold to start a compost pile? "In the winter, I'm deliberately layering green and brown materials in the compost. To make good compost, you need a 50:50 mix of materials that are rich in nitrogen and carbon. Air is a key ingredient in cold composts. However, with some wintertime adjustments, you can indeed make compost during the colder months of the year. Include your email address to get a message when this question is answered. (Steam coming off does not indicate 60°C). It doesn’t necessarily include heat. Cold composting takes six months to a year to break down the waste into compost. Having said that, small pieces tend to pack down more readily… that can cause a lack of air flow through the pile. You need to collect waste from your yard or take out the organic materials from trash or bin like vegetable peels off, fruit peel offs, eggshells, coffee grounds, etc. It’s called that because it doesn’t utilise thermophilic microbes to rapidly decompose organic matter. Read more…. Layering ingredients works but thorough mixing works better. However, gardeners should only add black and white or grey newsprint because colored sheets may contain potentially toxic chemicals. Therefore, more microbes can inhabit smaller pieces that have the larger surface area. Gardeners can also add kitchen scraps, such as vegetable peels and coffee grounds, for a higher nitrogen content if the pile stops decomposing like it should. Cold, or Passive Composting. We also want to test soil pH to decide whether we might want to alter the soil’s pH. Mounds of old salad, cooked broccoli, and moldy bread just sit there. Whether it is a thick 6 to 12″ layer of straw, or a heavy coat of leaves or pine needles, placing a layer of organic insulation on top of your pile helps it to retain heat and moisture. Amid the current public health and economic crises, when the world is shifting dramatically and we are all learning and adapting to changes in daily life, people need wikiHow more than ever. Most healthy organic matter can be added to a compost. Exercise caution when using shredded leaves. Anything added piles up until spring when the sunshine warms up the heap. However most of the earthworms used for composting do not have a freezing point tolerance and … Weeds are fine, but keep out the seeds. Water is another key ingredient. This method of composting has two steps: Put your waste in a pile, and wait. All tip submissions are carefully reviewed before being published. Meat and dairy products should also be kept out of the compost bin because they will certainly attract unwanted attention from neighborhood animals. Green ingredients such as lawn clippings and green leaves are the nitrogen base for the microbes. Making your compost bigger before the winter weather arrives can also be advantageous. Bravo, wikiHow!!". If you’re going to choose to layer the ingredients you might want to start with a carbon ingredient like dried leaves or mulch followed by a nitrogen ingredient. I’m going to share one way and include some helpful tips. This point was indeed different. Compared to the 4-6 weeks for hot composting, making a cold compost can take 6-12 months or more. Layer kitchen scraps between layers of “browns” or paper products to help reduce odors. These items tend to form clumps that are harder to get rid of in the winter, because cold temperatures tend to slow down decomposition. If you don’t have a compost bin, don’t stress out; you can still try composting in cold climates. Store the pre-compost. Cold weather composting is no different than any other at-home composting. It requires less effort from the gardener, yet the decomposition takes substantially longer—a year or more. Diseased ingredients shouldn’t be added to the pile. I live in a cold climate (Ontario, Canada) and have always kept my food scraps for composting all year-round. The process of freezing and thawing out the scraps will help them decompose faster as well. on top of the green with about the same thickness. 8. Complete Compost Components. If you live somewhere that’s particularly cold, you could look at investing in an insulting compost bin. Setting up a compost bin requires only a few steps but all of them are essential for making great compost. There are ways to speed it up and here I’ll share some methods for doing just that. wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. Whether or not we need to alter the soil’s Read more…, We want to test soil pH to make sure we’re planting the correct plants in our soil. Lawn clippings without lawn seeds… otherwise we’re likely to introduce lawn seeds into our compost. What is Hot Composting? It’s the perfect way to recycle food scraps. Er, grass clippings? Chop compost materials into uniform, two inch pieces. To create this article, volunteer authors worked to edit and improve it over time. It won't add much insulation, but it can help retain moisture. Covering the pile with tarp or strategically positioning it to shelter it from any wind and rain will also help. Cold (0-40°C) The right hot composting system will work all year round – which is relevant when composting food waste. Try Trench Composting in the Winter. It shouldn’t be too wet. It takes more time to transform organic matter using cold composting methods. Be sure to cut scraps down to smaller pieces – the cold weather slows the composting process and shredding your scraps create a larger surface area for the aerobic microbes to do their thing. That means more effective decomposition. Flora based kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, tree prunings, green or dried leaves, coffee grounds, egg shells etc are all excellent ingredients for a cold compost pile. Ideally start your compost bin in spring and for best results combine a mixture of soft, green, nitrogen-rich material and dry, brown, carbon-rich material in roughly even quantities. There are two main approaches to composting: hot and cold composting. Here are a few tips on cold weather composting that’ll help you hit the ground running this spring! Before you start piling on, recognize that there are two types of composting: cold and hot. This is because bigger compost piles tend to be self-insulating, with the outer layers protecting the inner ones. Changing soil pH is an easy process and most people do it without realising it. Is your compost cold as ice? If you’re going to choose to layer the ingredients you might want to start with a carbon ingredient like dried leaves or mulch followed by a nitrogen ingredient. Sometimes lawn clippings or dried leaves that have sat and started drying out can become water resistant. This is why they’re best for cold composting, which is less work than layering but a slower overall decomposition. Generally, the smaller the pieces the better. Freezing Kills Most Compost Worms Some species of earthworms can tolerate some degree of freezing (0°C and under) which is called the freezing point tolerance. Homemade compost is usually cold composting. We might not turn our cold compost as we do our hot compost, however we still need to allow air into the mix. Try to chop up your materials into small, 2 inch (5.1 cm) pieces so that it will decompose faster. prunings, wood chippings, paper, cardboard, straw or dead leaves) Are you willing to sacrifice your love? wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. Compost happens.) If so, you changed the pH in Read more…, The pH of the soil determines the availability of nutrients. Another great option during the winter is to simply leave your pre-compost over the winter. The system is a two-step, simple process. Cold heaps 'stop' in winter (-5 to +5°c). You can continue to add to a cold compost and this is best done at one end of the pile. A tarp could help a little. The only con is that they can be more expensive to construct or buy. Given the same volume of matter, smaller pieces have a larger surface area than larger  pieces. Add a layer of brown material such as leaves, straw, shredded paper, dryer lint, etc. No matter how particular you are about building your compost pile properly in winter, not much will happen in the cold weather. Compost, that rich mixture of organic materials added to garden soil that boosts plant growth and development, typically requires warmth for the bacteria to break down plant material. 4. Bury your kitchen scraps in the center of the pile to hidethem from scavenger animals and insects that could disturb your compost. This article has been viewed 21,560 times. Cold compost is a process of helping organic matter to decompose over time and without the use of heat and thermophilic microbes. Here are four tricks for heating up your compost pile. Check the moisture levels. This is a tip I picked up when I received my Hot … Learn more... Compost is made by microorganisms that break down natural materials into a useful garden product. Read on…. Over the course of a year or so, the material will decompose. Increase airflow by lifting and fluffing parts of the pile with a garden fork. Cold compost heaps also fail to get warm enough to kill weed seeds. If it smells bad, it probably is bad. Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 21,560 times. Check the air flow. You can keep adding to your cold compost pile, but other than that, no active effort is needed. Mix the ingredients as best you can. However, chilly weather can slow down the activity of these microorganisms. This is composting with worms and will produce rich, fertile compost that will let … When this occurs, gardeners will have to wait longer for their compost bins to work their magic. An aerobic compost pile smells earthy and has an abundance of life within it: worms, micro arthropods and little bugs and trillions of microbes. Check the smell. There is the hands-off cold compost pile that only has to be aerated every so often and is added to as one goes along. But if your compost pile becomes smelly it’s a sure sign pathogens have taken over the pile. Regularly check the compost pile. Instead of using heat, we use time. Trench composting is the original composting method used by Native Americans and taught to the Pilgrims when they settled here. Your support helps wikiHow to create more in-depth illustrated articles and videos and to share our trusted brand of instructional content with millions of people all over the world. That way, you can start harvesting compost from the opposite end when it’s ready. If this method is unappealing, you can also bag the kitchen scraps and put them in the freezer before adding them to the compost pile. Add to it frequently and in mass quantities, to trap as much heat as possible. Carbon comes from brown material, such as woody stems and cardboard. Cold composting does not kill potentially harmful fungal or bacterial plant pathogens and hot composting may or may not depending on the interior temperatures achieved within the pile. But having compost ready for March or April means there’s work to do over the winter. The ratio of 3 carbon to 1 nitrogen tends to work well. It’s ideal for DIY backyard composting if you don’t want to get tied up in the slightly more involved hot method. Those living in places where it does not snow or only snows infrequently may want to use straw bales for insulation instead. Compost piles come in two types. There are heaps of ways to compost. % of people told us that this article helped them. That means if you’re hand looks wet after handling the compost, it’s too wet. wikiHow is where trusted research and expert knowledge come together. Use a hot water bottle to kick start your compost. Accumulate organic materials and pile them upin your compost bin. A smelly compost is likely to have reduced or no airflow. If you really can’t stand to see another ad again, then please consider supporting our work with a contribution to wikiHow. A large, activity compost pile will be able to withstand the winter weather without this protection. Meanwhile, the hot compost piles are made up all at once and decompose rapidly. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. consider supporting our work with a contribution to wikiHow. Check for hydrophobic ingredients. This article is about cold composting because it’s the most common for home gardeners. These steps will tell you exactly how to start a compost pile using the cold method. Please consider making a contribution to wikiHow today. You essentially let a pile build and decompose, using the same type of ingredients. What Not To Compost . A cold pile requires minimal effort but may take a year or two before it produces compost you can use in your garden. Learn how your comment data is processed. But beyond it’s natural heat generation, there are a few things you can do to help keep a compost pile going longer in the winter. My article on hot composting discusses how to build and maintain a hot compost. There won’t be odors from the pile in winter, but it’s not a pretty sight and may attract animals.One way to bypass problems with composting kitchen scraps in winter is to do it indoors. If you can’t reduce the size of sticks, then make sure you push organic matter into any pockets and caves that may form as you create the pile. If you are composting food waste and want to ensure it will not turn anaerobic, or want to be sure of maximum pathogen and weed destruction, then you need to know the compost is working at 50-60°C. And it all starts with providing a bit of insulation. Green leaves are also fine as are dried and brown leaves, and fine mulches like sugar cane mulch. Spring when the sunshine warms up the heap as woody stems and cardboard with a?... 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