How to Compost in the Winter

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If you have ever tried to compost in the winter, you would know that it is much more complicated than doing it in the summer months. This is because the colder temperatures can cause decomposition to stop completely.

If you would like to know how you can successfully compost in winter, follow the five steps below.

How to Compost in the Winter

Keep the Heat in

As we have mentioned, the cold temperatures during the winter months can cause decomposition to stop. You will need to find a way to combat this if you are to be successful in your composting.

Some gardeners cover their bins and heaps in order to heat them up and cause the materials to compost faster. You could also use a lid to prevent the winter rain from affecting your compost.

If you wish to have your materials compost even faster, it is a good idea to use a bin instead of a heap. This is because they are much more efficient in getting the job done. You could even use two bins so that one of them can ‘cook’ the material while the other is filling up.

Chop and Shred

Many people do not know that large wood pieces can take years to decompose, making it a good idea to add small pieces of wood to your heap. This will increase the surface area on which organisms can grow, increasing the speed of decomposition and heat.

However, it does take a lot of time and effort to chop wood by hand. For this reason, you may want to invest in a shredder. This machine will enable you to shred wood effectively and swiftly, making the job of composting in winter much easier.

Maintain a Balance

As a general rule, you should aim to have an equal mix of dry and moist materials in your heap. If you didn’t already know, moist materials are known as ‘greens’, and dry materials are known as ‘browns’.

In winter, greens are usually in short supply because of the cold weather. On the other hand, you will find plenty of browns lying around your property. For this reason, many people make the mistake of adding too much brown material to their heap, drying the compost out.

Do not simply dump all greens and browns that you find into your heap. Instead, stockpile the materials in compost bags until you have enough greens to balance out the dry materials. This will make your winter composting much more successful.

Turn for Speed

It is very important to get enough air into your heap during the winter. This is because the air will increase the number of organisms that live in the compost, increasing the speed of decomposition and heat.

In order to turn compost, you will need to empty your bin out before refilling it again. Make sure that you turn the sides towards the middle in order to compost evenly.

If you wish to compost as quickly as possible, make sure that you collect enough waste to fill your bin in one go. Again, you will need to empty and refill your bin, but make sure that you do it as often as possible. You can invest in a tumbling compost bin if you would prefer not to turn the material by hand.

Add Insulation

As we have mentioned, waste needs warmth to compost, which can be a considerable problem in winter. However, there are various ways in which you can increase the warmth inside of your compost bins.

For instance, it is a very good idea to add insulation to your containers. Organisms will be way more active in your bins if they are warm, which will lead to your waste ‘cooking’ much faster. Try covering your bins with sheets of cardboard or an old carpet. You will quickly notice that your composting will be much more successful in winter if you adopt this technique.

How to Compost in the Winter

Tips to Keep In Mind

Here are a few things to consider before composting in the winter.

Keep the Compost Moist

You will want your compost pile to be moist in order to achieve maximum decomposition. With that being said, it should not be soggy.

Your pile will dry out in the winter months. For this reason, you should add small volumes of water to your bins on warmer days.

Avoid Certain Materials

Many gardeners simply throw any organic material into their compost heap. However, there are actually a few materials that should be avoided entirely when composting in winter.

We have already mentioned that you should shred or cut your pieces of wood before adding them to the pile. To be more precise, avoid adding any twigs or branches that are ¼-inch or larger in diameter. More so, leaves and wood from plants such as pine, juniper, spruce, and arborvitae should be avoided.

Add Some Worms to Your Pile

Worm composting is a great alternative in the colder months of winter. These organisms turn organic matter into a rich, dark soil amendment that can be used to grow your garden.

This process works best in temperatures that range from 40 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if the area that you live in gets too cold in the winter months, you could simply bring your compost bin indoors in order to increase the temperature that it is exposed to.


It is much more difficult to compost in winter than it is in summer, but it is not impossible. Knowing how to compost in the winter is the first step.

You will want to try and keep the heat in by using covered bins or heaps. It is also a very good idea to chop and shred your wood before adding it to your compost pile. Maintain a balance between ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ – you will not want to add too much dry material as this will negatively affect the speed of decomposition. Lastly, add insulation, such as cardboard or old carpets, to your bins or heaps in order to increase the temperature even more.

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