Winter composting may involve venturing out into cold, snowy conditions, but the benefits are worth it. Not only does winter composting help provide proper moisture levels for your spring garden, but it also creates nutrient-rich soil that can be used to promote healthy plant growth. On top of those benefits, the microorganisms found in compost help aerate soil, breaking down materials that can cause plant disease. It's important to note, though, that due to colder temperatures, winter composting does require more attention to detail to ensure a functioning decomposition process.
The two essential components of winter composting are the materials you use and the ratio in which you add them. These factors help compost maintain a hot core, which is key to keeping the composting process going year-round. As a general rule of thumb, winter composts should be composed of two-thirds high-carbon materials and one-third part high-nitrogen materials.
High-carbon materials include:
- Shredded leaves
- Wood ashes
High-nitrogen materials include:
- Lawn or plant clippings
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Coffee grounds
- Tea bags
If you struggle to find materials for your compost, consider external sources such as local coffee shops for grounds, and grocery stores for fruit and vegetable scraps. You can also save grass clippings in the fall and then add to your winter compost throughout the season.
It's best to compost these materials in layers to trap heat in the center. To do so, start with a carbon layer and then coat with soil; add a layer of nitrogen materials and again coat with soil. The layer of soil helps accelerate the decomposition process and also masks odors. Continue this process throughout the winter.
While there are plenty of materials you can add to your winter compost, you should avoid items like weeds, meat, dairy, bones and fish scraps, as these will attract pests and create odor.