How to compost during the winter in Canada?

Colder months are already here, and we can expect lower temperatures for a long time. And as a true zero waster you may be wondering what to do about your compost bin or vermicompost so let me help you with that and make it through this season with no problems.

The good news is that you CAN compost during the winter, let’s make that clear. And let’s remember, composting is basically the decomposition of our organic waste into rich and dark soil. Is the most natural fertilizer and an organic one as well.

If you want to learn How to Compost at Home Step-by-Step check out my article. You can also learn what Tools you Need to Start Composting at Home

 What is hot composting?

Hot composting or home composting is the most common method and is basically a mix between our food scraps ( fruits peels, vegetables, coffee grounds, eggshells etc.) and dry elements ( wood chips, dry leaves, sawdust, sticks etc ) mixed together. This composting process is an aerobic one which means it needs oxygen in order to work and start breaking down. The word “hot” appears because in this method the temperature of the compost pile arises although not in every case we can notice. Temperatures between 20 and 25C are the best for hot composting because it accelerates the process, nevertheless, when the climate is cold, it takes longer for our food scraps to start decomposing, simply because cold prevents this to happen and bacteria and fungi, do not live well during these conditions.

Picture yourself a fridge. It aids us to prevent food from going bad because it preserves them longer due to lower temperatures. The same thing happens with compost in colder months, it takes more time, but decomposition happens eventually.

There are two ways to compost during the winter:

  • outdoor composting- due to the low temperature, composting outside during the winter is slower and harder.

  • indoor composting or vermicomposting is easier but it is not for everyone, as it involves worms.

Here are some tips and tools you can use to still compost outdoors during winter:

1. Cut foods into small pieces.

This one is key. If you are not used to cutting your food scraps, I highly recommend you start doing it, especially in these colder times. Smaller pieces will become easier for microorganisms to start decomposing, and the time will be reduced.  Plus, you will take more time to fill up your compost bin.

2. Make sure you add the right amount of dry elements

Dry elements provide carbon, which is a necessary element in compost and having the right volume of it, will aid us to keep the temperature warm inside our bin. An ideal amount will be at least 2:1, which means 2 portions of dry elements for 1 of food scraps but the key part here will be that at the top of our bin, the part that is more exposed to the cold temperatures should be full cover with dry elements. If you can get as well shredded newspaper or straw, would be awesome because those two create a lot of volume and prevent the colder temperatures from the exterior, to enter the bin.

 

3. Reuse the liquid drained from your compost, also known as leachate

If you see that your compost bin is leaking, do not throw it away! Instead, start collecting the liquid which is compost leachate. It has a lot of rich nutrients for our plants and, if we return it to our compost bin, it can help it to decompose faster.

Indoor composting or vermicomposting

Now, we talked about our compost bin and these scenarios would occur if it’s outdoors and exposed to the climate. But what happens with indoor composting? Well, if you can compost outside, surely you can compost inside your house!

Commonly, those who compost indoor use worms to help the flood be broken down faster they are doing the vermicomposting method. In colder seasons like this one, it is important to consider that the goal for us, would be that our little friends, the worms, survive rather than continue composting as normal. In colder months, they tend to slow down their activity and they will still eat in order to survive, but at a much lower rate. So that means, that we cannot give them the same amount of food because they will not eat it as fast and will produce bad odours and it can lead them to make them sick.

What I recommend is to feed them with less amount of food and if possible, to compost the food you are planning to give them first. This way, the food will be more adequate, and they will eat it a bit faster. Although, remember that it might not happen that fast.

If temperatures are low like 10 degrees or less, you should consider covering your vermicompost bin and in extreme cases, installing a lamp to give them artificial warmth. These ones are used with reptile pets so it should not be difficult to find one or maybe a relative or friend can lend one to you for the season. Remember that we are aiming for our worms to survive the winter.

So as you can see, this time of the year could be a little bit challenging although it is not impossible to still compost!

If you have any doubt regarding composting in winter, let me know and I will be happy to help you with that. Thank you for reading and see you soon :)