Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

A Compost Bin that Keeps on Working

Does composting STOP in the winter? Nope!

By Clare Innes

Fall. When it comes to naming this cool, crisp season, that word says it all, doesn’t it? The red line in the thermometer gets lower and lower. Apples drop from the trees. Leaves swirl to the ground. It’s a time of transition everywhere – including your compost pile!

That’s right – compost happens all year long, even in the depths of winter. Sure, it slows way down, but if you keep those hard-working microbes happy, you’ll be that much closer to having black gold next year.

Here’s how to set yourself up so you can keep making compost at home all winter long.

1. Make 7 billion new friends. Grab a handful of compost. Give it a smell – it should offer a rich, heady aroma of growth potential. Take a squint at it. In that one handful, there are more microbes than there are people on the planet – and there are 7 billion of us humans! Consider what it took to get there: the right mixture of food, air, water, critters, and time.

2. Consider those billions of hardworking microbes your pets. Here’s a refresher on what keeps those critters happy.

  • Air and water: Just like you and me and your pets, they need the right amount of air and water to live. A compost pile should be about the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. Not too wet, but not too dry, either. Make sure your bin has plenty of ways for air and water to enter. Keep a pitchfork or stick of some kind by your bin. As often as you can remember, stick it in the pile and wiggle it back and forth to open up new channels for air and water to get in to different places in the pile.
  • Food: They need the right mixture of nitrogen (food and green plant matter) and carbon (dry, brown leaves, straw, hay, sawdust, paper towels, etc.). Whenever you dump a pail of fresh food scraps (nitrogen) into your bin, be sure you add at least as much (and a little more, if possible) dry, brown leaves (carbon) on top. This ensures that they’ll have the mixture they need and the dry, leafy layer on top helps keep aromas down.

3. Check out your bin. Do you need to shore up the sides? Is it just about full? Then maybe it’s time to let it cook and start a new bin nearby. Find plans for building a compost bin, from a three-section Taj Majal to a simple structure made with wired-together shipping pallets, at the Green Mountain Compost website.

Find out more about what is compostable and how to keep right on composting all winter long at<>, or give the compost gurus a call at 802-660-4949.

Clare Innes is the Marketing Coordinator, Chittenden Solid Waste District. E-mail:, Hotline: 872-8111.

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