Winter Composting Tips – How to Manage Your Pile

As the colder temperatures settle in here in the Northeast, we’ve gotten a lot of questions about what exactly happens to the compost piles when the thermometer heads south. Short answer – it depends. 

winter composting

Larger compost piles, like those at a farm or a commercial site, will still keep steaming away even as the temp drops below freezing. Those piles maintain high temperatures at their core and are not impacted by the outside weather. The pile in your backyard – that can be a different story. 

Unless you are managing your mix perfectly and maintaining a temp, it is reasonable to expect that your pile may become dormant for a spell during extreme bouts of cold weather. Do not be concerned and keep maintaining your carbon & nitrogen portions until the temperature gauge heads back above freezing. With a little water and some turning, the microbes will be back at work before you know it. 

managing compost in the cold weather

A few tips for winter composting at home:

  1. Don’t turn as frequently. This will help maintain the heat caused by the microbial activity and keep the pile active. 
  2. Monitor water. This is more difficult if your pile is uncovered during months of frequent rain or snow, especially since piles will also absorb water from the ground. 
  3. Build up. Make sure your pile is more like a compost cube, with 3-4 feet on each side.
  4. Insulate. 
    1. Pack in leaves or hay on the sides of the pile to help keep the heat in & maintain temperatures.
    2. Cover with a tarp- this can make it easier to add in scraps throughout the winter. 
  5. Don’t stress. If your pile does take some time off due to below freezing temps, it will restart again with a little turning & TLC in the spring. 

compost pile

Thinking that the walk out to your pile in the cold will be too long? Check out our upcoming blog posts on worm composting & Bokashi to see what fun winter composting projects you could do in the comfort of your home!

Watch the video here!


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