Composting In Winter
By Jos Van Hage
Saturday, November 26, 2011 03:45 AM
Composting has been going on for thousands for years and is very beneficial to the environment, as it reduces waste to the landfill, and when added to the garden it conditions the soil, which helps plants grow better. It can be done year round even in our Northern winter climate.
Winter weather with its freezing temperatures, and snow is no reason to stop composting. The decomposition process certainly slows down but the compost pile will keep working.
Because decomposition slows down over the winter the amount of waste that is placed in the compost bin does not reduce down as quickly so space may become an issue. One thing about the winter months is that there is less waste to place in the compost bin because most of it is kitchen waste as there is no lawn clippings, plant debris etc.
If you have a small sized compost bin it is recommended to empty out the finished compost in the fall so that it leaves more room for the new added waste. Finished compost can either be put into the garden or it can be stored in a dry place till spring. Some of it can be left in the compost bin and mixed in with the new materials to help with the decomposition next spring.
When starting a compost add a layer of sticks and twigs to the bottom of the compost bin and then add a layer of brown material. Brown materials include dried leaves, grass, wood chips/shavings, straw, shredded newspaper, etc. The next layer would be a layer of green waste such as fruit and vegetable peels and cores etc, coffee grinds, tea leaves, disease free plant debris, and grass clippings. Continue to alternate with a layer of brown, then green. Over the winter keep a couple of bags filled with dried leaves near the compost bin so that you can add these over the kitchen waste when you add it.
The decomposing bacteria will continue to work in temperatures up to -15 Celsius. If possible place the compost bin in a sunny location and it can be insulated by surrounding it with hay/straw or bags of leaves. Even if the outside freezes 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. Also the freeze/thaw process helps the cell structure break down which quickens the decomposition process in the spring.
If you don't want to go outside every day to add to the compost bin, keep a pre-compost bucket such as a large pail, or a garbage can in a cool garage and you can put the kitchen waste in that and add it to the compost bin once a week or so. If you don't want to, or can't get to the compost bin over the winter months a couple of large garbage cans with lids can be placed outside and the waste is put in there and then in the spring it is put into the compost bin. The freezing temperatures over the winter will keep it all frozen and there should be no odours.
In the spring when things thaw the pile can be turned and if it has become too soggy some added straw, shredded newspaper or leaves can be mixed in to soak up the moisture.
Composting is a win, win process all around. The finished product is an inexpensive way to condition and fertilize the soil and by recycling kitchen waste, grass clippings, healthy plant debris and leaves etc into the compost bin you are reducing the garbage that goes into the landfill!
Jos Van Hage owns and operates two Art Knapp Garden Centres in Prince George:
· Highway 97 north at Northwood Pulpmill Road
· Highway 16 West at Kimball Road
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