Three Ways to Winter Compost

How to Compost in the Winter

by Sandy Swegel


Now that winter is setting in, what do we do with all our great food scraps?  My first winter in Colorado I decided to have a worm bin under the kitchen sink.  It actually worked great but some of my city housemates thought it was disgusting having worms inside the house in the kitchen.  I tried a worm bin in the unfinished basement, but out of sight, out of mind meant the worms got forgotten and went dry or anaerobic.  I know people who have success with keeping the worm bin in an unheated garage.

Over the years I’ve come up with three other great ways to have a successful winter compost.

Compost Bin in a Protected Sunny Spot.

I kept one of those square black plastic bins against the house on the sunny side.  It was just outside the kitchen door.  I started with the bin half full of partially finished compost that I had put lots of kitchen scraps in so there were lots of worms.  The center of the pile near the ground stayed thawed even when it was -10 degrees so the worms stayed alive.  The compost didn’t process a lot during winter, but on sunny days, it would crank up.  The only con of this was the year the raccoons discovered the bin with fresh food.

Hilled Compost under a Tarp.

The tarp keeps moisture and some heat in.  You just slip the food under the tarp.  Worms show up.  There’s the varmint issue and some mice do move in for the winter. Come Spring the pile is partially composted and giving the pile a good turn sets it to work.

Trenches in the Garden.

Our soil freezes solid in winter, so I can’t just dig the scraps into the ground.  One Fall I dug about an 18-inch trench where I was going to plant the tomatoes next year.  I left the soil in a pile on the far side of the trench.  All winter, I’d go with a bucket of scraps, pour them in the trench and pull frozen chunks of soil on top of the scraps.  Snow fell and watered and insulated the trenches.  Worms in the garden flocked to the food scraps in Spring and by May when I wanted to plant tomatoes, the tomato holes were full of mostly finished compost….which tomatoes LOVE.

What’s your plan?


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