In the throes of winter, it can be tough to keep on composting all of that precious kitchen waste. Unless you have a great setup, winter composting can be quite a challenge to keep up with. Whether it’s an accessibility issue or that it’s just too inconvenient, composting may come to a screeching halt once cooler weather comes. This week we will check out 4 simple winter composting solutions that may solve your composting problems!
What could be putting the freeze on your winter composting efforts? Most compost ingredients break down very slowly this time of year. Shear volume of the stuff could make composting all non-animal food waste nearly impossible. High amounts of snow and slippery conditions could make it hard to even get to the compost area. Unwanted wild animals may be attracted to food scraps. In our case, our young dog was try to get in to eat just about anything he could get his paws on which would then proceed to make him sick. Not a pretty picture! What can be done? Here are a few ideas.
Fenced Area Within Reach
One of the simplest compost structures, (besides having an open pile) is to use fencing to contain the waste. This could be made from metal fencing or chicken wire. Make it free form or use 4 corner stakes. Fencing can be 3-4 feet high. If positioned on the edge of the driveway, access will be easy.
Above I have sketched a three bin system made from pallets. In this system, fresh kitchen scraps and plant matter from outdoors can be added to the first bin. As time passes, the contents of the first bin can be turned and moved to the middle bin. Start adding new materials to the first bin. After a few months, the middle bin contents can be moved to the last bin to finish composting. It’s literally one big cycle that just keeps going. The bottom sketch shows an example of a log bin. To build this bin, cut some young trees in the woods and construct it like a log cabin. Layer ingredients and then turn with a garden fork occasionally. In the fall you can sift out the finished compost and add it to your garden beds. Place unfinished items back in the bin and continue to build up the pile.
A Metal Trash Can
If animals such as coons, rats and skunks are always on the prowl for tasty tidbits in your compost, purchase a large trash can. Start your bin by adding a mixture of green and brown compost items, then layer more as the winter goes on. If the weather warms up, roll the can around or use a fork to stir contents. In the spring, the contents can be emptied into your usual compost bin.
Start A Worm Bin
This could be the perfect time to set up that worm composting bin that you’ve been dreaming of! I know you want to. It’s every gardeners dream right? Well, maybe not. Once you have all of the components of a worm bin, assembly is easy and it’s an educational project too. Kids love worm bins and adore having ‘pet’ worms. Click on the blue links for precise instructions on getting worms and materials.
A home system is rarely large enough to accommodate all of your kitchen waste but it can certainly help the situation. I feed my worms about every other week and follow this with a layer of shredded newspaper. They love paper towels, toilet paper tubes and brown cardboard. Worms devour fruit and veggie scraps while reproducing and making worm castings. This is some of the best stuff for your plants. If you have a cool area such as an attached garage, a worm bin may be a good fit for your family.
A Compost Tumbler
A purchased or homemade compost tumbler could be just the right thing for containing all of those veggie peelings. With holes for aeration and a handle for turning, a compost tumbler certainly will contain your waste. They are usually fairly animal proof too, at least puppy proof. Most hardcore gardeners have far too much waste for a tumbler but it could be what allows you to compost during winter.
What to Compost?
Composting works best when the pile consists of proportionate amounts of ‘greens and browns’. Greens are nitrogen suppliers such as plant based kitchen waste, used coffee grounds, tea bags and egg shells. Valuable greens from the yard include plant matter from the garden like chemical free grass clippings and green garden waste. Farm animal manure could also be used in moderation.
The brown list provides the carbon to the pile. Add fall leaves, straw or hay and small woody items. Shredded cardboard and newspaper can also be used. You will want a ratio of 1 pound of greens to 3 pounds of browns. Don’t get too technical here. Composting doesn’t have to be complicated so just start adding and you’ll get the idea. Turn the pile with a fork occasionally to keep things moving along and breaking down. Items to avoid are pet or human waste, animal kitchen waste such as meat scraps, colored newsprint and plastic. Any noxious plants such as poison ivy should not be used.Also avoid any bad weed seeds that might take over your bin. Small amounts of wood ash can also be added. Try to make sure that any larger items are broken down into small pieces for easier decomposition.
My goal this week was to encourage winter composting. I’ve provided a few simple solutions that can make your home composting efforts possible and effective. If it doesn’t work out, you could always give your kitchen waste to a neighbor for their compost bin. Just ask them first! Simply keep them in the freezer and give them to them when you see them. It will keep that waste out of the town dump and help make some of that luscious compost! February has brought us some pretty tough traveling conditions so far. We finally got back out in the woods again yesterday. We are waiting on our massive seed order and thinking of starting some seeds in a few weeks. What’s on your gardening to do list? Mine keeps growing! Don’t miss a single post by subscribing below!