Prepare Your Compost Pile for Winter

Yellow Leaves on Grass

It already feels a bit nippy in the mornings, and it’s time to pay attention to the garden. Even when I don’t manage to grow much food in my garden, I still keep feeding my compost pile because I feel better knowing I’m reusing kitchen waste. I am ambitious about my garden, but I just get busy. Maybe you are the same way. Even if all you are going to do is ignore your compost all winter (my personal method), just take some time, maybe 30 minutes, to tend to your bin before you lose it under a layer of snow.

Spread it around. If you worked your compost enough during the year that it is dark brown and earthy smelling, spread it on the garden. You will dig it in come Spring. If you do spread your compost, start a new pile.

Turn the pile. You probably add more kitchen waste (nitrogen rich green material) for a while then more sticks, leaves, and paper (carbon rich brown material) for a while. Turning the pile evens out the mix.

Give it a sniff. Does it smell earthy or is it more like ammonia? If you smell ammonia, you probably have an abundance of green, kitchen waste. You need more brown material, like dried leaves. Fortunately (or unfortunately), you probably have an abundance of leaves right now. Layer the leaves and other materials keep a good mix. You need more brown than green material, probably 2/3 brown to 1/3 green, but this really depends on the specific ingredients in your compost pile. If you add too much brown material, your compost will take longer to break down. It will still break down, just more slowly. Understanding the right balance between green and brown is one of those skills you will develop over time.

Spread it, turn it, sniff it. Done. You are ready for winter. My lazy method of composting fits even the busiest schedule.


Need more help?

If you are up for the challenge of composting all winter, check out the Compost Guy’s Winter Composting information. He’s in southern Ontario, but he gives tips for keeping your compost active further north as well.

If you need Composting Basics for the Beginner Gardener, read our earlier post.

Image © Ben Goode | Dreamstime.com.

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