Composting at Home During the Winter
While it is true that our gardens do not see much activity during the winter, what you don’t see is what is happening underground. This is essential to keep in mind during winter, the perfect time to build up your compost pile for spring. Compost contains all essential micro and macronutrients vital to a plant’s growth and flowering and sustains the release of these nutrients over time, unlike store-bought fertilizer.
During the winter, the decomposition process slows down due to cooler temperature but retains a core of heat that allows the process to continue. The decomposition process itself releases heat as microbes and good bacteria decompose. If you find that your compost is not retaining heat to allow the process to continue, try adding nitrogen rich items such as chicken or rabbit manure.
Other great items you can compost include household items such as paper napkins, popcorn, dog or cat hair, stale bread and coffee ground. You can find an extended list of examples in this list of compost items. If you have fall leaves from autumn, instead of throwing them away, add them or start your compost pile with them. Pine needles from Christmas trees during the holidays also work great in compost.
When “feeding” your compost, remember that just like humans, they need a balance of rich nutrients. These are common things we eat such as vegetable and fruit scraps. If you have a houseplant, trimmings from these contribute to a balanced diet as well.
Unlike during the warmer seasons when you compost as materials become available, you will benefit from strategically layering your compost items. By layering items such as vegetables and fruits on top of leaves, newspaper shreds and sawdust, you will create layers of heat that will continue the decomposition process.
You can also take measures to insulate the pile itself such as digging a hole for the pile to use the heat from the ground, layering a tarp over it (but don’t forget to add water to refresh moisture) or surrounding it with bales of hay.
By retaining a compost pile in the winter, you will be able to ensure fresh compost for the start of gardening season.