Make a winter compost bin

In summer, I use a large compost pile exclusively, and it works well. In winter though, I add a smaller compost bin near the house. There's far less yard material to be composted in winter, but there is still a lot of kitchen scraps. So a smaller bin near the house allows me easy access to the bin without having to trek through the cold or snow.

Compost bin in winter

Composting in winter is a little trickier than in summer, but still very possible. You'll have the weather to deal with and obviously the compost getting cold will keep it from cooking as well as in summer. However, as many compost items (like some vegetables) get mushy once frozen and thawed, it actually does help them to break down.

The bigger the compost pile you have, the less likely it will stop cooking in winter. My pile is kind of short, and it definitely takes a break from processing during the coldest months. I do still try to turn it monthly when possible.

The biggest problem I have in winter is that kitchen scraps freeze before they can start composting. My chickens don't go out there and check for fresh scraps every day like they do in summer. Kitchen waste sitting outside in winter tends to attract undesirable attention from skunks, raccoons and opossums...who I don't really want in my yard because of my chickens!

So it just makes sense to keep the fresh waste in a closed bin during winter. Once the weather breaks I will dump it into the compost bin and turn the whole thing to get it mixed together and ready for spring!

It also keeps me from throwing away kitchen waste because I don't want to go out on the cold! Do you do this too? I mean, this is how far I have to walk in the winter to take something to the compost pile! This picture was taken from my front steps. Looks like a cold walk doesn't it?

Compost bin far away from house

I have the can placed in a sunny spot next to my back door in winter. This way the heat from the sun warms the can up a bit, helping it to keep processing and I just have to step outside to add more material! Start by adding about a foot of brown material. I used some dried leaves, but you can also use wood shavings, shredded newspaper, straw etc.

Small winter compost bin

I use a metal garbage can, but depending on the kitchen waste you produce you can also use a 5 gallon bucket with a lid, or basically any container you can close tightly. If you have varmints that might try to get in, you might want to get something with a locking lid, or bungee the top closed.

I throw a small shovel of compost in there to add the microbes and bacteria needed to get everything cooking. You don't have to do this, but it does seem to jump start the composting process.

Small compost bin in winter

Add your kitchen waste as you acquire it, keeping track of your browns and greens ratio. Some people like to keep a bag of leaves in the fall when they rake them up so they can add them to the compost throughout winter. 

Coffee filters, tea bags, cotton balls, small pieces of cardboard and other browns count too!

You need to add more brown than greens, but I know it can be difficult in winter without yard/garden waste. The worst that can happen though is a stinky compost bin. Since we're using a lidded bin and it's freezing cold for the majority of winter, it really shouldn't be too much of a problem. 

If it get's stinky, just add extra brown materials. The article 20 Weird things you can compost has a great troubleshooting section at the end of it. Check it out if your compost doesn't seem to be cooking right.  

Turn your compost occasionally. This can be impossible if it freezes solid, but on warm stretches it should thaw enough to turn. The nice part about bucket or garbage can compost bins, is that you can just lay them on their sides and roll them to mix. Make sure the lid is on tight of course, but this will allow you to mix the contents a bit without having to get out the shovel or rake and turn it.

Don't worry about turning on a schedule, that's not as important in winter when it's so cold it stalls the composting process. 

Once the weather warms up in early spring, you can roll your small compost bin out the the compost pile and add the contents into the pile, mixing thoroughly. 

Now that we are set up for winter composting, what project should I tackle next? What's on your to do list? 

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