Don't be put off by winter winds and snow - you can compost year round. Materials that you add to your bin during the winter will decompose more slowly as the temperature drops and the pile may freeze solid, but as soon as the weather turns warmer, the process will become active again.
Cold temperatures are actually beneficial; the freezing action breaks down the fibres in organic material which aids in decomposition once it thaws out.
To make winter composting more convenient, you may wish to locate your bin close to the back door rather than in a far corner of the yard. But remember - there are other things to consider in deciding where to place your bin; for example, it should sit directly on the soil in a location with good water drainage. For faster composting in the winter, locate the bin in a warm sheltered spot, such as the south side of the house.
There is no need to take your food scraps out each day. You can store them in a container by the sink (a lid will prevent odours) and take them out every few days.
- Store indoors for a few weeks if layer with sawdust or soil.
- A typical-sized bin, 12 cubic-foot capacity, is more than large enough to hold the kitchen wastes of an average family of five. (Barclay - Harrowsmith)
- Locate bin in warm sheltered place; chop wastes; cover loosely with clear plastic sheeting to create greenhouse effect. (Alaska - Harrowsmith)
- Insulate pile with hay bales, fallen leaves or soil.
- To reduce the number of trips to the compost bin, store kitchen scraps in a plastic can by the door; line the bottom with sand, or soil to prevent the waste from freezing to the bottom of the can; a locking lid will keep out animals.
- When the can is full, or before that if it's too heavy, take it out to your bin; turn it upside down and thump or bend the bottom till the material falls out; the material used to line the bottom of the pail will make a good cover to the pile. (Fred Dale)
- Make bin from bales of hay. (Organic Gardening)
Be sure there is plenty of room in your compost bin in the fall so you can keep adding materials throughout the winter. To avoid filling your bin with leaves, you can compost some in a separate bin or pile, save some to add gradually to your bin throughout the winter, use some as a mulch, or dig some directly into the garden. See our information sheet Making Your Leaves Work for You.
You should also harvest finished compost in the fall to make room for fresh materials over the winter.
One alternative to backyard composting in the winter is composting indoors with worms. Worm or vermicomposting is also suitable for schools, offices and apartments.
Because worms cannot survive cold temperatures, worm composting has traditionally been done indoors year around or outdoors in the warm months and indoors in the winter. However you can do worm composting outdoors year around if you make or purchase a special insulated worm bin. For details see our Vermicomposting Information Sheet.