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How to Compost in Winter

Filed Under: staying green, Outdoors

Could you compost in this? Photo: Normanac, Flickr

Even if you live in the snow belt you can still compost all through the winter.

A good overview will show you the basics, such as proper materials, layering, air and moisture and, of course, what can and can't be composted. Still, composting in bitter climates requires a few techniques.

Composting will continue, albeit slowly, as long as your piles are above freezing. If your piles are big enough, they will generate their own heat, but usually not enough. So the secret is adding and conserving heat. Use as much solar energy as you can by orienting your bins to the south.

Consider covering your bins with translucent plastic to capture the sun's heat, but remember to add some water to the piles and provide some ventilation. You won't be adding as many materials or turning the piles as much as you do in the growing season.

People make compost in Alaska, but in a small glass or plastic-sheeted greenhouse heated by a light bulb. If you have cold frames (hot boxes) consider using one or more for compost; just don't open the top except to add more materials and to ventilate once in a while.

Try salvaging old storm windows or scrap plywood. Insulate them with one-inch extruded foam. If you are using worms to speed the process, a cover will keep them dry. Trench composting is another alternative, but not where frost penetrates deeply.


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