5 Steps to Prep Your Compost Pile for the Winter


Many greenies in cold-weather climates assume that frigid temperatures and snowy conditions rule out composting for the winter. But you can actually recycle your organics year-round with a little extra maintenance. To help you along the way, Earth911 compiled this simple guide to composting throughout the winter season. So, break out those shovels and let’s get going!

apple, apples, red, green, snow, winter, outside, compost

Chilly winter temperatures can slow decomposition in your compost pile. Photo: Filckr/knottyboy

1. Prepare for the slow-down

Composting is a biological process that decomposes organic material under aerobic conditions – meaning oxygen is required for bacteria to break materials down. The only trouble is that cold temperatures often slow or even stop decomposition, as aerobic bacteria tend to become sluggish in the winter.

Even when the temperature drops, some microbes responsible for the breakdown of organic matter remain active in the compost pile, according to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Since the digestion process generates heat, the center of your pile may still remain warm and actively composting.

However, the outer (visible) portion of your pile will cool to outdoor temperatures. So, you may notice extended decomposition time in these areas. Don’t worry about it. Microbial activity will resume normally once the temperature warms up, as long as you maintain a healthy balance in your pile.

You Asked, Earth911 Answered: How to Choose the Right Composting System for You


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Mary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni

Mary is a lifelong vegetarian and enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, biking and relaxing in the park. When she’s not outside, she’s probably watching baseball. She is a former assistant editor for Earth911.
Mary Mazzoni