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Whether it’s 70 degrees and sunny or 20 degrees and snowy, I’m always thinking about my garden. Although it’s in hibernation mode, I recently began planning for next year based on new ideas I’ve come across and things I didn’t get to try out last year. Lately I’ve been reading about composting, and it’s something I wanted to learn more about.
In a nutshell, composting allows you to turn yard clippings, leaves or kitchen scraps into a nutrient-filled soil. Most garden experts suggest that this organic material is far better for your garden than any store-brand or organic fertilizer, and it’s a completely chemical-free process. In case you haven’t noticed, I love earth-friendly stuff like this. Furthermore, I can make my own organic garden soil. That stuff is expensive!
Most composting is done in the summertime. Heat and moisture create an environment for bacteria that break down the scraps and turn it into soil. During the dry, cold winter, bacteria growth slows, and composting generally slows to a snail’s pace.
I really want to have good quality soil ready in the spring to get my garden going right away. To my surprise, I found some great techniques to start or keep your compost pile going in the wintertime. So read on if you want to learn how to make your own organic garden soil in time for spring!
Insulate the compost pile
Keeping your compost pile warm is half the battle. If it gets too cold, the bacteria and worms die off, and you’ll have a frozen pile of scraps and yard waste on your hands. Nothing will really decompose during the winter, and you’ll have to wait longer in the spring to get your garden soil.
Creating a thick wall of insulation for your pile can help prevent this. Garden experts suggest surrounding your compost pile with hay bales or a thick cinderblock wall. The Compost Guy suggests making a wall with a hollow space to stuff with recycled insulation.
If your compost pile does freeze, there isn’t a whole lot you can do. You just simply have to wait for the weather to warm up so the bacteria can grow and get back to work.
Cover the pile
If you use something like an old trash bin for your compost, you probably have a lid to keep snow and rain out. Some people opt to have a larger, open compost pit. Simply covering an open pit with a tarp will do. Putting some insulation, like hay, on top will help keep warmth in and moisture out, as well. Too much water will turn your compost pile into a slimy, smelly mess.
Add new scraps often
Make sure to add scraps, whether food or lawn clippings, to the pile all the time. The worms and bacteria need food to eat, and the action of them eating lets off a lot of heat – keeping your pile warm despite the cold weather. Be sure that the food or yard waste you add is about the size of a half dollar; it’ll break down a lot faster than large pieces.
Resist the urge to mix it up
By mixing up your compost pile in the winter, you’ll lose valuable heat that keeps worms and bacteria alive. Simply add scraps and waste to the top. Just make sure it’s covered well. You don’t want unwelcome animals to make your compost pit their new home or food source.
Incorporate extra heat
Sometimes you need to incorporate a little extra heat to keep bacteria and worms alive. Burying some old holiday light strands, the kind with the huge bulbs, can help keep the inner core of the pile heated. You don’t have to keep the lights on all day and night, but if you notice that the outside has began to freeze, turn the lights on. If you don’t have thick insulation to keep warmth in you might need to leave the lights on more often. It really depends on how much insulation you put around your compost pile. Just be sure to keep an eye on it. Also consider covering your pile with a black tarp, which will absorb sunlight and warm up on sunny days.
Some garden experts suggest indoor compost bins, but I don’t know if I’m completely into that idea yet. I haven’t read much about it, and it’s something I’d like to explore more. For the time being, I’ll try a winter compost pile and keep it an outdoor thing.
Will you try making a winter compost pile so you have nutrient-rich soil for your spring garden? Do you already compost? Share your ideas with other Zing readers!