Composting During the Fall and Winter

IMG_0759Composting during the fall and winter is a great way to channel your children’s love for mess and creepy crawlers and harvest some rich humus soil, black gold for your garden in the spring.

Composting reduces your kitchen waste and provide an opportunity for you to teach your children about sustainability. Aerobic composting reduces your carbon footprint as it does not produce methane and nitrous oxides, and any carbon dioxide that is emitted is part of the natural cycle

Even after the growing season is over, it is still possible to compost.  Try composting with worms, or vermicomposting. If you have kids, they may love the chance to play those wriggling critters.

A step by step guide to setting up your vermicomposting project for composting during the fall and winter:

    • Use a large plastic container approximately one foot deep. Supply one square foot of surface area for every pound that you will compost in a week.  Worms don’t like light, so use an opaque container.
      • Drill holes in the bottom of the container for aeration. Be sure to place a collecting plate below the container.
        • Put a dark cover loosely over the container, so that oxygen can still reach the worms. Burlap or plastic both make excellent covers.
          • Choose a carbon bed of shredded cardboard, newspaper, or dead leaves that you will use to line the container. Wet the bedding, and allow it to sop up as much moisture as possible.  You may need to let the bedding soak in water for up to 24 hours.
            • Because you are using worms, which eat their body weight in waste every day, you can use more kitchen scraps and other nitrogen waste than you can in other types of composts. However, do not add any human or dog waste, cooked food, fats, or meat to your compost.  Also, avoid garlic and onion skins because the worms don’t like them.   Just stick to plant waste. Fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, tea leaves, and breads are all fine.
              • Now add worms! You want to pick red worms as they are the best composting worms and are easily available. They are also cheap. Your best bet is to check at a local fishing or gardening store as you can buy small quantities of worms for a couple of dollars. In fact, the garden store I worked at sold 50 worms for $1.  One pound of worms should be able to consume a half pound of garbage a day.  If your kitchen generates more garbage, then use more worms.
                • Place the compost in 40-80 degree temperature.  In some parts of the world I little difficult in the winter, but it will pick-up again once the temperatures rise again.   Or move it into your garage.

                    Now it’s time to begin composting !    A few other points to keep in mind.  

                • Your compost will not smell if you are composting correctly.  When your compost is new, limit the amount of kitchen scraps you put in. Once the compost becomes established and bacteria forms, you can increase the amount of kitchen scraps you put in.  If your bin begins to smell, try cutting your kitchen scraps into smaller pieces.  Also, cut back on citrus fruits.
                • Put an inch of bedding above the new scraps.
                • Within 3-4 months, the worms should produce rich humus.  To harvest the humus, shine a light on the bin to encourage the worms to move to the bottom of the bin.  Then, gather the top layer of humus.
                • Once you have harvested the humus, refill the bin with more wet bedding and kitchen scraps.

                If you’d like to purchase a few reference guides or items to get you started, Green Blizzard recommends, Eat My Garbage by Mary Applehof, or Vermicomposting: A Beginners Guide by Jana Wilcox, or buy a tiered composter device – The Worm Factory, to really kick-start your project. 

                Composting Tip: You might want to keep your vermicompost in the garage, basement, porch, or under the sink. Vermicomposting is a great project because the compost requires low maintenance and is difficult to mess up. The rich soil produced by the humus is richer and greener than synthetic fertilizer.  You can reduce your trash and your carbon footprint through this compost. Even better, the kids will enjoy feeding the worms. I won’t tell them that they are learning and doing chores at the same time if you won’t…

                Check out this page at the University of Nebraska website on composting for so in-depth insights.

                A few other related Green Blizzard insightful articles you should read are: Kitchen Composting Made Easy, Fast Food: Think of the Carbon Impact, Shave Some Meat Off Your Diet and Reduce Your Carbon Footprint, and Cold Cooking Challenge.


                About the author

                John R. Garnet

                John's work in the energy market fostered his interest in the environment. He recently completed his graduate work at George Mason University, But more interestingly, John has a passion for food and cooking and to provides some light-hearted tips to make people's lives greener while enjoy the good life with everyday practical tips from brewing tea, growing basil, or drinking raw milk.