Winter Composting


Winter Composting

Submitted by Solange Machado 

In our house, the one chore that everyone despised was bringing out the compost. My brothers and I would usually wait til the last possible moment to do it. By then, it would be quite dark out. We would have to walk out to the garden with an old camping flashlight and the clunky compost pail. It was not even that bad of a job but since we had a good imagination, the sounds of the night seemed pretty scary.

But composting is not scary, even in the winter.  With some red wigglers and something sturdy to keep your compost in, you are good to go! I will share with you what happens in your compost and some tips to have a thriving compost even when the temperatures drop.

You may not know what really happens at the heart of that pile of scraps that you throw outside every once in a while. There is one leading component that keeps your compost functioning, aerobic bacteria. These tiny bacteria love to eat carbon- and nitrogen- rich materials which give them energy and help them grow. When these bacteria eat, they heat up, which is why your compost is warm. Warmth is a helpful condition for the bacteria and gives them energy to increase their productivity.

In the winter, the lower temperatures can slow down or even stop this process, although it will start up again when the weather warms up. Especially if it is uncovered, the moisture levels of the compost can go up and compress the the bacteria’s environment.

Here are a couple composting tips on how to have a more active compost in cold weather.

Keep the browns and greens balanced

What I mean by this is simply to keep the green nitrogen-rich scraps (which mostly come from your kitchen) balanced with the brown carbon-rich material (such as leaves, or garden waste). One thing that my family does is we gather all the dry leaves from around our house in the the fall and then throughout the following months we add it to the compost whenever there is not enough carbon materials.

Have a cover on your compost

A lid or built-on roof or even a sturdy tarp will keep your compost dry and safe from weather factors. Just make sure to keep some vents so that there will be air circulation.


If you want active decomposing you will want to keep it cozy and warm for those bacteria! A thick sturdy bin, or surrounding the exterior with some cardboard should work. Make sure to cover it with a tarp or something else so that it does not get wet. Layering the compost with straw or dead leaves will also help.

But is it worth the trouble?

Yes, yes, it definitely is,  and if you don’t have a compost yet, it is never too late to start!  When you have a healthy compost pile you are benefiting the world by reducing the amount of waste that goes into landfills, and reducing greenhouse gases that kitchen scraps release during anaerobic decomposition in landfills. You also provide your garden with inexpensive, nutrient-dense soil to feed next year’s harvest.

Good luck to you all this winter!


Here are some links to help you get started: