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Composting bucket/winter Question

Posted by flo9 none (My Page) on
Sat, Oct 5, 13 at 3:12


I've looked everywhere and not seeing an answer. Maybe somebody here knows!

I'd like to start my first compost pile and yeah I'm a novice. ;) It's fall now and winter approaching.

Do I need to drill holes in a 5 gallon bucket for air circulation to store my waste greens etc during the fall and winter months?

We get snow here during winter and I currently live in an apartment with a small concrete patio so must go in a bucket.
I'd like to get a jump start collecting things for spring time. And I've read the importance of holes during the summer time... but what about winter? Is there a minimum temp outside where holes are a must or should always have? Because I keep reading about insulation etc during winter.

And I read during winter to add leaves and shredded paper on top... since I may not have much produce to add.. should I often add layers of food and paper and/or leaves?

Any experience to share I'd appreciate it.


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Composting bucket/winter Question

Hi flo!

Good for you in composting though you have a small space!!

I bet someone will chime in with more specific details. But I can weigh in:

Good compost always needs decent air flow. Minimal air flow means slower moisture loss and that usually means going anaerobic (smelly) unless it is freezing which slows everything down. It's still great in breaking down the compost.

With experience, you'll learn what works and doesn't work for you.

If you plan on dumping a lot of kitchen waste, you'll need something to capture the moisture below if you don't want a mess on your patio. You may already know this.

Normally, if a mix is too wet more carbons (browns) can be added to compensate. When your bucket begins to get full, you're limited in space. So, you'll need to be more specific in handling the ratios of greens to browns.
The smaller the pieces, the faster the compost.

I designated an old cutting board just for my left over veggies and things for when I want to compost quickly. I add them to a decent-sized kitchen compost bucket with a lid. I also add in some of my browns, like shredded newspapers at this time. It usually fills up in about a week. By the time I get to it, the decomposition is well underway but not stinky, yet.

My goal, though, is hot compost. A slow compost is good, too. It just takes longer. I have difficulty turning larger piles, sometimes. So, I'm known to start smaller piles all over the place and combine them later after it breaks down to a lighter weight mixture. To get my smaller piles hot, I add small-sized greens and browns and tend frequently.

I end up with about a 5" area within my small compost piles that actually heats up but not for long. I must check them frequently often adding powdered alfalfa to restart the heating process. This allows me to add "green" without adding more moisture. I end up burying a lot of my kitchen waste from a family of four because I can't manage the larger piles. Too much of it makes my small piles go anaerobic and signalling critters in my yard.

Rabbit pellets ground in a sturdy coffee mill is my alfalfa powder and compost-starting "dry green material". Excellent nitrogen source, but a little goes a long way.

Larger piles seem easier to maintain for hot composting. Any composting effort is worthwhile.

Good luck!

RE: Composting bucket/winter Question

  • Posted by flo9 none (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 5, 13 at 11:17

Thanks for your reply ChickenCoupe. Very helpful. I was just a little confused reading so many comments throughout the web of people storing in sealed containers during winter to later add to pile perhaps a week later or something... didn't know if I could do it this way for months.

Does anyone have problems with bears in a compost pile??? They're getting ready to hibernate now and they never bothered my potted garden, but I assume if one balances the compost correctly it wont smell bad.. from what I've read, but are bears attracted to it regardless how it smells? They're spotted daily here... some live here on the apt property and hundreds cut through on a trail to get to Blue Ridge.

I assume whatever I can achieve in buckets or a big bin is well worth it on every level. ;)

RE: Composting bucket/winter Question

Possibly look into vermicomposting? There is a forum here on the little wormies! Nancy

RE: Composting bucket/winter Question

I live in bear country and only 3 times in 17 years have bears bothered my compost. I think they are looking for the earthworms that proliferate in compost rather than the vegetative material. Last time I had a bear in my compost he dug where I had buried it in my garden and spent quite a few minutes laying down and eating the worms. The reason I believe it was the worms he was after was that it was an old 'burial' site, not a fresh one. The 2 previous times a bear had ripped apart my pallet compost bin and left a nice paw print but since I've never had earthworms in my compost the compost itself didn't seem to be bothered much.

Do you have enough freezer space to store kitchen scraps until the bears are in full hibernation? Then if you layer it with shredded paper it will absorb the excess moisture and shouldn't smell over winter.

Once the ground is solidly frozen here I store all my kitchen scraps in a large plastic compost bin that I place just off my patio so it's easy to access all winter. In the spring once it's thawed I mix it with wood shavings/sawdust in a pile further away.

RE: Composting bucket/winter Question

  • Posted by flo9 none (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 5, 13 at 12:00

NancyJane... I don't want to consider doing an worm farm until I own my own property. Just too large of a task with minimal space here. Quite a few found their way to my pots this summer, however.

Luckygal ... I never heard of bears loving worms. Interesting.
I don't have the freezer space to keep too much in there, but could get away with it for a little while. I'm thinking put it all in a blender so won't be as bulky.. potatoes for instance. I am definitely going to start growing my own potatoes next year. I'm over it buying them organic and already soft etc and wasting them since they're old in stores.

I know where I can get free 5 gallon buckets, but they have olive oil in them. A friend said he couldn't clean the oil out. Can I use these for a compost bucket?
I just don't want to spend any money if I don't have to.

You guys are wonderful with all the tips you're sharing!!!!

RE: Composting bucket/winter Question

Flo, if what you are wanting to do is just save up your greens till you get them to the regular pile where your browns are, I wouldn't put holes in the bucket. If it gets "juicy" in there, just dump it with the rest of the things onto your pile. If you have access to a kitty litter bucket, I have used that before. The main thing is to have a tight fitting lid. In winter I store up greens in a Tupperware container under my sink & as they break down in there, there is enough room to keep adding. Have never had an odor, but of course, the Tupperware lid is totally air tight.

RE: Composting bucket/winter Question

A little olive oil won't harm a good compost. Just take some paper towels and wipe off as much as you can. Free is definitely better!

If you blend everything it will become wet very fast. However, this will compost quicker with the appropriate ratio of carbon to greens (your blend being the greens). When you put your "blend" in the compost, dollop it. First, add a layer of browns. Then, add a few dollops of your brew. Add another layer of browns and ... e.g.

The normal recommended ratio for composting carbon items to green items is 30:1. That's 30 cups of carbon to 1 cup of greens. If you have one cup of kitchen waste, you need about 30 cups of browns with moisture absorption as an emphasis.

Different carbons break down at different rates. Thus, if I put in some blended kitchen scraps, as you propose, I would much prefer to use a denser material for browns, like cardboard. And in the case of this bucket size, I would shred the cardboard down to about 1" sizes. You can use any type of browns. I'm just giving an example of how I would handle a heavier moisture content.

The moisture from potatoes peels breaks down over time and is suitable for newspaper shreds, for example.

FYI: It's way easier to shred wet cardboard than dry. I presoak mine for this purpose.

Just give it a try and you'll get the hang of it!

RE: Composting bucket/winter Question

Flo- if you read into it a bit, vemicomposting is just right for a small apartment area! Look into it! Nancy

RE: Composting bucket/winter Question

  • Posted by flo9 none (My Page) on
    Mon, Oct 7, 13 at 12:31

Thank you so much!!! Very helpful info and I'll follow your suggestions.

RE: Composting bucket/winter Question

I just keep a 5-gal bucket outside the back door with a brick to keep the lid on in the wind. When it gets full, on a warmer day, I haul it out to the compost bin, dump it and cover with leaves, sawdust, wood chips, whatever browns I have. No need to get any more complicated than that. In winter the stuff won't get very funky in the bucket and may be frozen much of the time anyway. The olive oil buckets are fine, just make sure you have a lid.

RE: Composting bucket/winter Question

  • Posted by flo9 none (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 15, 13 at 1:45

Well... I might have not made my post clear enough on my intentions. I'm seeking to just ONLY try out compost in buckets UNTIL I either buy land Or find another place to rent where I can compost on top of Mother Earths land. In meanwhile... it's from one bucket to another with what I can do.
So long as I can get the buckets for free.. I am HOPING it is doable to keep going at it like this until I can have an ideal space to do it on the land..... so no... not just tossing my raw scraps in a bin... I want to add leaves and paper etc and seek for what I do over this fall and winter to be healthy to add to soil when I start growing more food.

pfft.... and each time I've driven by places... guess what? No buckets there. I need to make phone calls... also asked a major regular grocer across the street if they'd hold some for me... well it's given them the idea to do what I'd like to do. I might have to buy something soon. Everyone is accepting freebies and dumpster diving lately it seems.

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