Cold Weather Composting

How to keep your compost going through the winter

Compost Pile with snow and fresh compost scrapsEven the most dedicated gardener struggles with composting in the winter. The wind is too cold, the snow too deep, the driveway too slippery, the bin... just too far away. Hang in there though — here are a few composting cues for the colder months:

DO Keep Composting!

The decomposition process will slow down (A LOT) during the cold months, but somewhere under all that snow and frozen kitchen scraps, microorganisms are still at work.

DON'T Bother Flipping Your Pile

Yes, oxygen is needed to create compost, but in the winter, your pile may be super cold or frozen solid. Frequent flipping or mixing of the winter compost pile lets even more heat escape and might expose food scraps to hungry wildlife.

DO Cover Your Compost

Keep the lid closed, or place a tarp over the top if you have an open-top style compost bin. This is especially helpful if you live in a temperate region with lots of repeated freezing and thawing — you may be able to keep decomposition rates up and excess moisture down.

DON'T Forget the Browns!

During the winter, it's easy to add overload your pile with green waste from the kitchen. Unfortunately this can create a wet, smelly mess come spring. If you've run out of twigs and wood chips, try adding shredded paper grocery bags, newspaper, and torn up cardboard egg cartons. Get more compost ingredient ideas here.

DO Shred

Or chop, cut, or rip. The math is simple: smaller pieces break down faster. By shredding your greens and browns into smaller pieces, you increase the surface area and provide decomposing microorganisms with more surfaces on which to feed.

DON'T Add Too Much Wood Ash

Wood-burning gardeners, this one is for you! Ash from the wood stove is a nice source of potassium for the compost heap. However, too much wood ash can raise the pH of your compost and make it more alkaline. Unless you're trying to shift the pH of your garden soil, add ash sparingly. Be sure to only use clean, untreated wood ash.

So bundle up and keep breaking down! By sticking with composting through the chillier months, we're not just nourishing our future gardens, we're also cutting down on the amount of waste headed for the landfill. Here's to keeping that garden gold cooking, all year long. Read our comprehensive guide to all things composting to learn more.

Last updated: 02/12/2024