When it’s close to freezing outside and you’ve hung up the last of your gardening tools for the winter, it’s all too easy to just sit back, enjoy a cozy fire, and let the months pass. But did you know you can still keep your garden productive despite the near sub-zero temperatures?
If you’re an avid fan of using free soil amendments then this is for you. Your composting efforts don’t have to come to a full stop just because the temperatures have dropped. You can still maintain a it throughout the winter months and use it in the spring to give your garden a head start.
Today, we’ll be talking about how to compost successfully in the winter. Let’s get started!
Why Compost in the Winter
For some, it may seem counter intuitive to keep a compost pile in the winter. After all, the freezing temperatures often mean most organisms lay dormant for months on end.
But while the bacteria and other microorganisms may slow down because of the cold weather, they don’t necessarily stop working. They can remain active especially in the middle of the compost pile because of the heat caused by the bacteria during oxidation.
Furthermore, the freeze-thaw cycle can help breakdown the organic materials you use in your pile.
So the good news is you can, and should, keep composting in the winter. The only difference is that the decomposition process is slower than in summer or spring.
How To Compost In The Winter Successfully
Winter weather can be aggressively harsh for your compost pile. The freezing winds and precipitation can not only add a layer of frost to the heap but can also drench it in water which can drown microbes.
To avoid this, install a roof or cover the top of your pile with a tarp. This will prevent any unwanted precipitation. You can also block your compost pile in with cinder blocks to help maintain a proper temperature.
Make a Bigger Heap
Working with a bigger compost heap will extend its longevity throughout the winter season. Make sure that the volume of your compost pile is at least 1 cubic yard. With this size compost pile, the center can remain warm and active even if the edges are exposed to the elements throughout the season.
Since the process of breaking down organic material is slower in the winter, it is best to shred the materials you will add into your compost pile. Yard clippings should be at least 2 square inches to help manage the temperature within the heap.
Track the Temperature
When discussing how to compost in the winter we can’t forget about the temperature. When the temperature of your compost pile gets too low, the activity of the microbes in it can slow down dramatically. Be sure to add nitrogen-rich materials to increase activity and heat. You can also turn the pile to increase the temperature.
Too much water can drown microbes in your pile especially if you live in an area that receives a lot of rain and snow. Consider using compost containers to prevent moisture from seeping from the ground into your compost pile. You can also add some dry leaves to absorb moisture.
Incorporating worms into your winter compost pile can work wonders especially if you prefer to keep your compost container indoors. Worms can turn kitchen scraps into a rich and dark soil amendment that your garden will love in the spring.
More info on Vermicomposting:
No matter what method you use, it’s easy to do. The benefit to your garden is definitely worth it, and it will also save you in the long run on trash bags, so that’s a plus, too.
All you need to do is give it a try and you’ll be glad you did. Once you learn how to compost and choose your favorite method(s) you’ll save yourself a bundle on buying soil amendments and bagged compost. Plus you’ll know what exactly is in what you’re feeding your soil because you created it yourself.
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