Gathering compost ingredients in winter?

prairiemoon2 z6 MAJanuary 31, 2014

I really want to do better with my compost next season. I keep looking at some of the packaging and egg shells and coffee grinds going into the rubbish every week and it's so sad to lose the use of them just because it's winter. So I thought I'd ask, if anyone collects materials for the compost pile when the ground is frozen and there's nowhere to put it? I suppose I could just add it to the top of the compost pile out there?

What do you do?

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My ground is not frozen but to ensure enough greens all kitchen waste is collected under the sink. When the plastic grocery size bag is full I stow it in my horizontal freezer in the garage. In my zone 9, browns are easy to come by. Dug up Bermuda grass rhizomes & stolons are the only yard waste that is not composted.
When the fro-kitchen waste is added to a batch it thaws as mushy matl. & my batch piles heat up quick with leaves & deadheads as the only browns.
So to summarize I freeze my kitchen waste & never pass on leaves. I'm the guy that rakes leaves in the park so they don't get hauled away by the city. :)

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 6:37PM
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mustard_seeds(4 -Onalaska Wisconsin)

I put it in a couple paper grocery bags outside the back door in a cardboard box - it all freezes. The box keeps the bags from sticking to the deck. Every so often I take the bags out to my bins and shake the contents onto the frozen compost. I can reuse the bags over and over. Come spring, the bags I have been using using turn into compost too.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 6:55PM
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I just chuck the kitchen stuff into a tumbler and add a layer of leaves. All my compost freezes solid up here but come spring time all I have to do is tumble a bunch of times to mix it all up. I tend to add excessive amounts of dry leaves in the winter due to the all at once thaw issue. Better to be high on carbons than nitrogen. (don't ask how I found this out, it wasn't pretty).


    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 7:06PM
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I use tidy cat buckets with the bottom cut off
Piled up browns holds it in place, then I fill it with kitchen waste.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 9:52PM
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There is no reason to store material until a perfect ratio can be mixed and started in warm weather. Put what you find in the bin when you find it. If the c&n are near balanced as it is collected,the greens will freeze thaw in cycles and browns will start to rot. As weather warms,the pile will become increasingly active when turned. I have 3 large bins of leaves right now that are slowly rotting. All I do is add kitchen scrapes that aren't needed by worms and sprinkle water occasionaly. As green grass clippings and other greens become abundant,I will blend them with the partly decayed leaves. About the only material I store is cardboard boxes when leaves are abundant. The only problem I ever had storing cardboard was mice a couple of times while sneaky snake was awol. I use small amounts of shredded cardboard with fall leaves just for diversity then use it mostly in summer.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 4:27AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Well, that should be easy enough. Just let it freeze outside and keep adding it to the pile when you can. That should work. My pile is along the outside edge of my property so it's not easy to get to if there is a lot of snow. But I can leave it on the back porch until I can get to it.

I have been in the habit of keeping a 'cold' compost pile and not adding in kitchen scraps because of critters, having learned that the hard way. I do have a black plastic bin that I can add kitchen scraps to, but I have been inconsistent doing it. We use a lot of cardboard in the garden, under mulch, so that never makes it into my pile. Normally, I have a lot more leaves than I do this year, because my neighbor shares his, but this year, he left all the leaves on his lawn for the winter. So I usually do find it difficult to find the right ratio of c to n, but this year it's going to be even worse than usual.

I am thinking about building a new bin system this year. Something along the lines of the one the Victory Garden used to use, with three bins that allows you to turn into the next bin easily. I'd also like to keep a secure cover to keep mice out. Of course, I've never used that kind of system, so who knows, maybe there is a better one I should be considering?

I've also been reading about the Interbay Mulching system, that layers like the lasagna method or sheet composting and tops it off with burlap. The idea being that the microorganisms are right on the surface of the soil and the larger the area you build on, gives you a larger community of microorganisms to work on your organic matter. The burlap helping to keep it moist and darker. If I decide to go that way, then I guess I wouldn't need a bin at all.

But whatever system you use, the hitch is always gathering the organic materials and creating the right ratio. I'm considering growing a cover crop that creates a lot of biomass to give me better access to materials that I always seem to be in short supply of. We have a small lawn, so grass clippings are not enough. Then I need to figure out how to increase my carbon materials, because I usually depend on leaves and I won't have near enough this year.

Last year, I ended up just burying kitchen scraps in an empty vegetable bed and I didn't have a problem with critters, but I can't do that in all my vegetable beds.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 7:03AM
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" I suppose I could just add it to the top of the compost pile out there? "

As long as you layer kitchen scraps with shredded paper and other "browns" it should work. In the spring, when the pile melts, it will start composting.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 7:18PM
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Cover crops for bio mass is what I do. I like giant sunflowers for this purpose, they just have to be hacked into small pieces. Anything planted in clumps that can be yanked out at once is good too like chia salvia. Once it blooms and drops seeds its outta there & into my pile.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 7:57PM
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Since I'm semi-vegetarian I eat a lot of veggies so save everything that can be composted. What I'm doing this winter is wrapping the peelings, etc. in newspaper and putting it in a bucket in my cold garage. Every few days it goes into a black vinyl composter just off my patio. I'm hoping by using newspaper it will begin to compost and not go anaerobic. In previous winters I've just dumped everything in the composter daily all winter without paper and in spring when it's thawed I mixed it with sawdust in a pile but it had started to decompose and was pretty smelly by then. If this doesn't work I'll just make a pile as usual. It all becomes compost eventually anyhow.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 5:16PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Good suggestion, lazy gardens, I was not even thinking about the âÂÂbrownsâÂÂ, now I will.

Paleogardener, thatâÂÂs quite a crop to have to hack into smaller pieces! I donâÂÂt think I pull out much over the growing season, except spent vegetables that half the time IâÂÂm concerned about disease and I leave those out of the compost, because I have a cool pile. I will have to keep that in mind as the season goes along and look for clumpers to pull.

Luckygal, newspaper around the peelings, thereâÂÂs my browns. [g] Thanks! I was also thinking about paper towels, used tissues, paper thatâÂÂs gone through the shredder, paper towel rolls and empty tissue boxes.

I would have had a smelly mess in the spring without all your comments, thanks!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 6:19PM
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That's all I've done for the past several years since I've gotten to lazy to make a hot pile. I have lots of leaves and I just add the kitchen scraps to the top all winter. Before the snow comes I cover the scraps with more leaves but after the snow comes, I just let it freeze on top and mix it in come spring.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 12:05AM
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I have always put it (veggie scraps, coffee, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, etc.) in the bin no matter what the weather.

Comes out gorgeous every year.

This year I have the benefit of added daily chicken manure.
Good stuff...

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 10:04AM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

Yep, just have those fall leaves or some other browns handy, and layer it in there through the winter.

I have pretty bad weather sometimes here in MO so I keep a 5-gal bucket outside the door with a good lid. When it's bad out I just dump into that. When it warms up enough to thaw the bucket I'll trudge out to the bin and dump it.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 11:41AM
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I have more than one pile and collect material all year long.

The new material goes in to my newer pile. The good news is that there are fewer bugs in the winter, so I don't have to worry too much about correct green/brown ratios in the new pile (i correct that problem in the Spring).

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 10:53AM
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duplicate post deleted

This post was edited by apg4 on Fri, Feb 7, 14 at 21:43

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 11:46PM
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This was an interesting (as in strange....) year. In over three decades of organic gardening, I've never seen the pines drop as many needles as this year. I don't so much cut the grass, but rather harvest the lawn to go into various piles and tumblers. Though I tried to minimize the percentage of shredded needles, there's not a lot of 'green' to be harvested this time of year, and kitchen refuse only adds only so much. Any thoughts on heating up too may needles? I've used a compost starter and bioactivator, but even with frequent turning, the piles are cold.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 11:48PM
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I save large piles of leaves in the Fall under some trees in an undeveloped area of my property. I have two trash cans near the back door for all kitchen scraps. When a can is full I bury the content under the leaves. I did it a week ago, it was difficult with two feet of snow. But now I have two empty cans and no need to do it again until May. The (unfinished) compost will then be a mixture of kitchen scraps and leaves.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 3:48PM
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i cant wait for spring and grass clippings.
I get about 25lb of old grounds from Starbucks a week, i have well over 100lb.
about 60lb in the compost bin, but hardly anything else. i added some beneficial microbes i had bought for the plants. it started working, but its slow until it warms up, and until i can add grass and other stuff

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 9:37AM
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With your great supply of coffee, you probably just need to find some browns (leaves/paper, etc.)

Like most, I have too much grass in the Spring/Summer & too many leaves in the Autumn. So I bag n save some of the excess so I always have adequate greens/browns for the compost bin.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 11:49AM
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Great ideas for collecting those scraps through the winter. I've been using buckets on the deck this winter as it is very cold and I can't seem to make myself go to the bin.
I'm going to add paper bags in a cardboard box... my buckets are full and see how they do with the dogs and cats in the yard. If it works that's a great option.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 8:25PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I have to remember to put some bagged leaves in the garage for when I don't have enough browns. Thanks for that reminder, tn gardening.

And I now have a 5 gallon bucket on the back porch. Nothing has been bothering it and no odor. It's been very cold. 10 degrees over night tonight, forecast. I feel good about saving items that would have been wasted in the trash. Now we all just have to stop forgetting things.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 8:32PM
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What if any advantage do you gain storing leaves in bags apposed to putting them in an outdoor pile/bin where they settle,srink and rot to 1/4th the volume? It has been my observation that storing outdoors gives them a head start when composting in earnest begins.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 1:29AM
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yolos - z 7b/8a Ga.

Klem1 - I kept thinking the same thing as I was reading this thread. If you have extra leaves, why not just shred them up, throw in a bin, add water and wait until spring until the grass starts growing again. That way the leaves are partially decomposed and with the greens added in the spring, the leaves will decompose faster.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 11:25PM
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I've stored leaves so that I have something to cover the kitchen scraps with during the winter. Due to our extreme cold up here there is not a lot of active composting going on. The best way I've found to deal with my kitchen scraps in the winter is to add and cover so I need a C material to cover with. Storing the leaves in bags keep them dry and usable. If I left them in a pile they'd get covered with snow and ice.

I'm sure there are other reasons.


    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 8:02AM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

apg4 wrote,

"Any thoughts on heating up too may needles? I've used a compost starter and bioactivator, but even with frequent turning, the piles are cold."

Nitrogen. Whatever you're adding probably has microbes, which are already there, but the only way to get low-N material to heat up is to add N.

OTOH if it's winter wherever you are, it may not heat up well anyway. I'd rather not use fertilizers, so if it were me, I'd wait until there were more greens available and mix the half-composted needles with those.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 5:05PM
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sandyl(Zone 6B -7)

Can shredded office paper from my work go in a compost bin?

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 3:21PM
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On paper, if it is to be used its best if its newspaper or cardboard. Office/printer paper has a high clay content that will cause it to mat & clump together taking a long time to breakdown.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 4:49PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

Also, shredded office paper is a high quality/high value recycling stream, so it's best if that can get recycled into more paper somehow. Not everyone has access to recycling facilities, so you may not be able to, but if the opportunity is there, in the grand scheme, it's better to recycle than compost office paper.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 3:31PM
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