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How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

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How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

Post  larkspur on 11/5/2011, 1:55 am

I have two garbage cans that I have been composting in. I'm thinking of bringing them in for the winter, into the garage where it will be a little warmer. I will let one just continue to do it's job, and use the other with filler, food scraps, etc. However, I have a very large pile of leaves, cornstalks, old plants, and hoping to get some rabbit manure and some late grass clippings to add into a huge, 3 x 3 or 4 x 4 pile for winter. We will get snow and then it will be covered from snow (late November until spring thaw) and possible for a few weeks of temps in the -20s to -30s. Typical weather for us. So my question is, do I just get it all mixed, and then forget about it. Do you actually try to turn a pile if it has two feet or more of snow on it? Does it do any composting? I'm really knew at this and just wonder the best way to do a compost pile in cold, snowy weather.
Thanks for your feedback! I don't know what I would do without this forum! Thanks!!!

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Re: How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

Post  Goosegirl on 11/5/2011, 5:29 am

Hello Larkspur! Your winter sounds just like mine here in SD. I have just finished turning my compost piles and combining the 3 of them into one big one to get ready for the winter. Hopefully someone with more experience will jump in, but once snow flies my compost pile is all on its own. I don't shovel snow so that I can shovel compost! In the spring I use what I can out of what has composed during the winter and throw the rest of it back as the starter for my new spring scraps. I don't know how much it composts in the heart of winter, but I do know that in the spring at least some of it is ready to use. I use what I can and the rest goes back, again! A tumbler near my back door would be nice for winter, but there is NO way I will be able to talk Hubby into it!

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Re: How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 11/5/2011, 7:14 am

Right now my compost bin is 4ft x 4ft x 4 ft. It's about half full. I'm picking up some horse manure today and HOPEFULLY rabbit manure as well. There are a couple more manure sources that I will look into this week. With all of that manure going into my compost bin, plus all of the straw/hay I have in my autumn display(see my picture to the right), and any compostables (veggie/fruit scraps, coffee grounds) that I get in the next few weeks, my bin should be pretty full. I'll turn it whenever I can up until the compost freezes (poop-sicles anybody?? LOL) Once it gets too cold to turn, I'm just going to keep it covered with a couple of tarps (to keep moisture out of it) and just let it go until maybe March. I figured that after March I'll be able to turn the compost again and by spring planting (I'm most likely going to plant nothing but tomatoes) the compost should be ready to go.
Any compostables I get (fruit/veggie scraps, etc) after the compost pile is "closed for winter" are going to be stockpiled in buckets in my shed. The shed gets as cold as it is outside so that should keep the smells to an absolute minimum. Then that stuff is going to start my new compost pile in the spring.

Just an FYI.....human hair can be composted as long as it's not color-treated or permed.

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Re: How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

Post  camprn on 11/5/2011, 7:29 am

I am in the process of building my winter compost pile. I use a bin system where I have used green U fence posts and lean wooden pallets against them to make the bin sides. I throw the stuff right on the ground in the bin. I am layering chopped leaves (that I have picked up with the lawn mower), then a thin layer of the dried grass clippings (I have been piling them up through the summer), and then coffee grounds (that I get by the 5 gallon bag full, about 20 # per bag, from the coffee shop) and then a few shovels full of the summer compost pile that is 1/2 rotted. I also add some water to the lower layers. All this goes into the bin and will sit there, exposed to the elements, for the winter. I continue layering and really mound everything up high over the tops of the bin sides. it will all settle into the bin within a week. Winter food scraps will go right on top of it all. In the spring I will turn it over and intermittently sprinkle some dried blood onto the pile as I do. this should give me some usable compost for the summer (not the spring). Here is a photo of the process from last year.

The winter compost pile ready for turning.







Last edited by camprn on 11/5/2011, 7:36 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 11/5/2011, 7:34 am

That's a pretty cool bin you have. What are those sticks for?

What's the dried blood for?

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Re: How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

Post  camprn on 11/5/2011, 8:06 am

The reason for the stakes is two fold: Firstly, I put them there to help stabilize the pile as I build it. So everything wont slide out. Secondly, after a few days of settling, I will pull them out and this will allow air into the pile, a requirement for active composting.

The dried blood is a nitrogen source and will help heat up the pile. Have you seen the Compost 101 thread?

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Re: How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 11/5/2011, 8:25 am

Yes...I've seen that thread. I scan through that periodically.

I've been thinking about adding a PVC chimney to my compost pile to help with airflow.

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Re: How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

Post  Lavender Debs on 11/5/2011, 9:19 am

Hello larkspur, what a pretty name. (I tend to ramble....short answer at the end of post)

My cold weather composting was on the rainy side of a mountain valley in the North Cascades. We had more rain than snow (note to self, if you look at a place in a "rain forest" on a beautiful sunny day, you will get buckets of rain once the earnest has been paid) Our snow did not come until January and was gone by April. Back then I was strong and turned my pile every Friday (kept in a 4 foot circle of hog wire) UNTILL about October then I only turned it once a month. When the Snow came I left it alone.

There was a large garbage can lid on top to keep it from getting too wet. You might not need that in Utah. I had rabbits and chickens whose bedding went into the pile. I also used alfalfa pellets to heat it all up. (No egg shells, blood or bone meal, no meat scraps or tropical fruit. I've never had any luck with citrus or bananas composting and did not want to draw vermin to the pile with flesh or slaughter house products). On a cold day in February you could see the steam rising from the pile, telling me it was still active. There are living organisms and worms wintering in the pile. By spring rototilling time the pile was awesome, dark and crumbly, sweet scented (unlike the stink that occasionally would waft up from a hot pile once a week).

Short answer: Healthy compost will continue to work under a layer of snow in sub-freezing temperatures. The outside of the pile might still look like a bunch of hay but the heart will be black gold.

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Re: How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

Post  camprn on 11/5/2011, 9:38 am

@Lavender Debs wrote:
Short answer: Healthy compost will continue to work under a layer of snow in sub-freezing temperatures. The outside of the pile might still look like a bunch of hay but the heart will be black gold.
+1 cheers

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Re: How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

Post  quiltbea on 11/5/2011, 10:45 am

I leave my piles to fend for themselves. A few times during the winter I make a path to the outside bin where I dump the latest kitchen wastes, but other than that, I forget them. The compost barrels also are ignored. Nature will work her magic, even if its much more slowly.

In the spring the compost will be rich at the bottom and can be used for your garden. The rest can be put back in the pile to continue its journey to rich compost.

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Re: How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

Post  larkspur on 11/9/2011, 8:35 pm

Thanks everyone for your answers! I feel better about what I'm doing. Looking forward to spring!

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Re: How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 11/9/2011, 9:26 pm

I love how fancy and technical some people get when composting. It's almost a hobby of it's own. I actually like reading about it because I always pick up a new thing or two.

However, I am the lazygardner (maybe I should change my name...lol). I turn my pile more than others because I like the lifting, mixing, and exercise. But, I mostly let it lie. I don't do much but toss in what I pick up as part of my lawn maintenance business. It all eventually breaks down. I'm not in a race. Once it gets finished, compost just keeps coming, if you keep adding. Pretty simple process.

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Re: How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 11/9/2011, 10:52 pm

I'm getting ready to shut my compost bin down for the winter. Sometime in the next two weeks or so I'm getting more manure to add to it and then it'll sit(covered) until March.

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Re: How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

Post  Scorpio Rising on 1/23/2016, 2:48 pm

@BackyardBirdGardner wrote:I love how fancy and technical some people get when composting.  It's almost a hobby of it's own.  I actually like reading about it because I always pick up a new thing or two.  

However, I am the lazygardner (maybe I should change my name...lol).  I turn my pile more than others because I like the lifting, mixing, and exercise.  But, I mostly let it lie.  I don't do much but toss in what I pick up as part of my lawn maintenance business.  It all eventually breaks down.  I'm not in a race.  Once it gets finished, compost just keeps coming, if you keep adding.  Pretty simple process.

Me. Completely. Wink

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Re: How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

Post  sanderson on 1/23/2016, 5:39 pm

This is an old thread from 2011. Wink

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Re: How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

Post  Scorpio Rising on 1/23/2016, 7:01 pm

Pondering the ramifications of changing my name to lazygardener.....no. Tempting rock on


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Re: How do you handle winter composting, like in snow?

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