winter composting?

shadygarden_CO(z5 Denver)October 4, 2013


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Yes! You can (and should) compost everything, anywhere, anytime. What else are you going to do? Send perfectly good petrucibles to the landfill?

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 3:45PM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

Absolutely you should add to the compost all year round. Nature does it - the stuff lands on the ground and breaks down at its own pace. No calendar required. :-]

Keep some 'browns' handy and layer them with your kitchen scraps during the winter. You'll be amazed at how much stuff you generate.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 3:52PM
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shadygarden_CO(z5 Denver)

Thanks so much for the advice. I feel so much better composting my vegetable peelings, etc., than throwing them in the garbage disposal, so I will continue to toss them in the compost bin.

Another problem I have now in my new location (kind of among the pines) is that I don't have leaves. This year I ordered some blocks of coir, I think it was called, that it said you could use for composting. I think it's from coconuts. Any suggestions for "browns:?

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 4:02PM
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Up here nothing really actively composts much in the winter but that doesn't prevent people from continuing to put materials into their composters. The decomposition will resume when warmer weather returns. It has been my experience that adding in the winter requires a bit more process than summer though. I've seen people skimp on the browns and just let the additions freeze only to have one heck of a mess in the spring. I add more dry browns than normal during the winter to compensate for the lack of evaporation and resulting higher moisture content in the spring.

If I was desperately short of browns, I'd consider those wood shaving bundles.


    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 4:42PM
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sunnyside1(z6/SW Mo.)

For enough browns, I would use torn-up cardboard. And torn-up newspaper (not shiny pages) and definitely old brown pine needles, but not too many, as as they are pretty acid.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 5:21PM
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Any suggestions for "browns:?

Shredded paper, spoiled hay (the stuff that's too musty for horses to eat), and those shavings they sell in compressed bales for animal bedding.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 7:02AM
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You may want to look at this discussion.

Here is a link that might be useful: winter composting

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 7:25AM
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I posted this pic on another thread but will repost it here. This is where I store all my kitchen scraps collected over winter. I place it just off my patio once the ground has frozen so it's handy and I don't have to shovel much snow to access it easily. I don't layer it with anything but it freezes solid so in spring when it thaws I move it all to my composting area and mix with wood shavings/sawdust from a local mill. No way am I standing out in a winter storm or even on a calm minus 30 day to layer compost so it's just 'saved' for milder weather.

I do add the few paper towels I use but I don't think layering with 'browns' would speed up the process here over winter anyhow. Of course things might be different in your zone 5 than they are in my zone 3. The important thing is to not waste those good compost ingredients so save them any way you can.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 11:52AM
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Yes, but it will be harder to practice warm or hot composting, if that is what you are looking for.

Judging by your second post of the OP, I might suggest pre-digging holes or a trench for burying your greens in the winter.

Just pitching your veggies and other materials in a bin without good core heat or sufficient area, could be asking for animal trouble.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 4:42PM
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"I've seen people skimp on the browns and just let the additions freeze only to have one heck of a mess in the spring."

Been there, done that, when I lived in MI. The spring mess is no fun.

Depending upon the reliability of your freezing weather, either have a stockpile of browns (woods chips, saw dust from a mill, etc. work well), or follow luckygal's advice. Just be prepared for when thaw(s) happen.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 6:20PM
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Sounds as if having ready to use brown indoors so you could add it to the scraps according to water content before stepping out to dump into the outdoor container will be a plan to control "spring mess." That way you wouldn't be hard pressed to process it on first day it thaws.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 8:08PM
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shadygarden_CO(z5 Denver)

How about pine cones for browns? I have lots of those. Very, very few deciduous trees in this neighborhood. Maybe if I smash pine cones, would that work for browns?


    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 5:45PM
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Conifer cones compost slowly, but could be added. We have plenty of fir cones in our open piles because of nearby trees. They're easy enough to pick out when the pile is finished except for the cones or chunks of cones.

We have lots of browns now since I added additional 2nd hand purchased collectors inside the house for our trash.

-step on trash can for compost next to the wastebasket in kitchen (used paper napkins volume into compost increased dramatically)
-paper shredder next to the compost can
-separate trash can in bathrooms for compostables lined with a reused paper sack (just facial tissues & toilet paper rolls, not soiled tp)

Also help family understand all the household papers can be composted such as: toilet paper or paper towel rolls, papers (school, junk mail, discarded lists, etc.), used napkins, empty cracker or cereal boxes, and fast food restaurant paper bags. I think they knew before what would compost, but it was a hassle. Having that 2nd container made it easy for them & not much extra work for me.

Also if a family member becomes ill with a sinus cold I give them a paper sack or an empty tissue box for their used facial tissues & dispose of it directly outside in the composter when full. Keeps the germs contained & more browns!

I line the kitchen compost can with a plastic bag filled 1/5 of the way with papers from the bathrooms or shredded scrap paper to help absorb the liquids from vegetable wastes. Since we have chickens who get most of our vegetable & fruit scraps, the kitchen can is mostly the unedibles like coffee grounds & filters, tea bags, onion skins, stems, and citrus rinds.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 9:15PM
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The paper at the bottom of the plastic bags to absorb the moisture is a good idea. I could never make that work quite right!

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 10:53PM
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The materials in a compost pile will freeze during the winter if those materials are too wet. I have composted all winter here for many years and have not had the materials freeze solid since I constructed my current bins with lids to control the amount of water and snow that can accumulate on the piles.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 7:13AM
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shadygarden_CO(z5 Denver)

Thanks to all of you for your ideas. I have a compost tumbler and was using shredded scrap paper in it this summer for browns, but the scrap paper didn't break down. Also pine needles didn't break down.
I think I just need to get another container, to put the unfinished compost in or start new compost in and let the tumbler "cook."
I have extra trash cans from my former home and might put one on the patio for winter composting and layer kitchen scraps with cardboard boxes (cut-up) and toilet paper and paper towel rolls.
Then next summer I will get another compost container. I have seen ads for a double compost tumbler. Has anyone tried that?

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 4:37PM
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Tumblers are great if you get the mix and moisture right. One of the common problems is they typically have a small volume. That limits how hot the contents will get. The double tumblers that I've seen cut the volume down in each compartment to a very small volume. As a result, what inside won't heat up much at all. That's okay, so long as you have capacity and patience.

For you a tumbler is probably a good place to accumulate and mix on a regular basis, then transfer the partially finished stuff to a pile or another container to mature and finish.

Pine stuff (needles, cones) is typically very slow to decompose. It will, but it takes time.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 5:35PM
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priswell(9 CA)

>> Also pine needles didn't break down. They do keep things aerated because of the way they pile, but pine needles take 2-3 years to break down. They're not in any hurry at all.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 3:01PM
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shadygarden_CO(z5 Denver)

Lucky gal, that bin that you keep kitchen scraps in during the winter -- I am wondering if a plastic trash can could be used instead. I might have to put large rocks in the bottom to keep it from blowing over. I have a large Rubbermaid trash can that I don't use and was thinking about using that and then maybe adding this coir stuff that I bought for browns. The coir is from coconut shells that I bought from Gardener's Supply and is supposed to work for composting.


    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 5:52PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Like TXEB says, add the stuff to your tumbler, tumble every couple of days until it starts breaking down, then dump it into a pile or bin to finish.' Many people here don't like tumblers, but I find that they START breaking down faster with a twirl every couple of days, then when dumped into a bin, things seem to happen faster.
I'm not sure about the winter stuff, though. Nancy

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 9:09PM
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pine needles do not take 2-3 years to break down, i had a good amount break down in a matter of months, in a compost bin with other things

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 9:31PM
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With respect for what prisswel and darkness are saying about needles and cones,we can all agree they will break down,just a question of when. IF the resultant compost is of good quility,if I had to clear them from areas of the yard anyway I would be tempted to include at least some as an aid to airation rather than dumping them in the forest. If they arn't gone when compost is used,back to the bin with those raked out while handleing. I use small branches that way and feel they do help with airation. Occasionaly when I see the cut end exposed and think turning the pile is overdue,I slowly pull the branch out stirring the pile a little in the process.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 9:56PM
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maybe left in a pile with nothing else added they would take years, but i would say they actually decomposed faster than leaves and newpaper, i dont know if the are "pine" but they are most certainly and evergreen needle, the longer ones

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 12:10AM
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darkness,yea sometimes we forget what's in our yard may share in name only with what is in someone else's. A tree that is abundant from the Rockies to the East Coast is commonly called Eastern Red Cedar but some will point out that it is not a cedar at all,it is a juniper. While they are correct,they have no explanation of why noone sells juniper chests. There truely are about three dozen different pines growing across the USA along with several other conifers that look enough like pine to be known as pine. Some cones are are porious and decay prone,others so resistant to the elements they reseed very little until exposed to a forest fire where up on the seed are released in abundance. Best a person can do is throw some needles and cones in to see what happens. Why not,I bet someone out there is attempting to compost a pile of earth friendly plastic containers as we speak.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 2:08AM
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