How to keep compost working during the winter

Filed in Blog by on April 15, 2011 4 Comments
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Maintaining a compost bin during winter

Maintaining a compost bin during winter

One of the most frequently asked questions about compost bins is how to keep them active during the winter months.

A compost heap needs to be warm to be usefully active and although it doesn’t matter if they stop working during cold temperatures (they soon pick up again once the weather warms up) it can be frustrating to find yourself with an inactive compost heap. For some people with small compost bins it means they need to find an alternative method of dealing with food waste for a while.

Our compost bin remained surprisingly active this winter, but there’s been a bit of a mystery here at zero waste towers too.

The other day I went down there to find the lid missing. I assumed high winds were to blame.

The paper that had been put in there was tossed to one side and strewn around the garden. As emptying the compost is Mr Green’s domain I figured he’d been careless with things and not stopped to pick up his litter <tsk tsk>

Fortunately though, we’ve found that our compost bin has indeed gone down this winter, despite temperatures of 15 below. In fact, it’s gone down a LOT…

Was it the bubble wrap I put around the bin? Or the piece of carpet on the top?

Indeed not, the truth of the matter is we have another bokashi horse in the field behind the house:


He has rather a penchant for broccoli stems no less…

I don’t know anything about horses, but I hope his digestion is ok and he’s not responsible for too much methane!

So there you have it, if you’re despairing about your sad, cold compost heap, hire a horse who will be happy to help…

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (4)

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  1. Julie Day says:

    The horse looks lovely.

  2. Attila says:

    Ahhh! Do be careful, though, that he doesn’t get his nose into a pile of grass cuttings; they get warm and ferment and then he gets colic which can easily be fatal. What are his owners are doing, not looking over the fences to see what he can get hold of!?

  3. Antonio Pachowko says:

    Don’t Forget about pigs Mrs G. Pigs will eat almost anything (including Meat) and they go through a lot of it in one go. It is fun creating your own Pig swill (which can be made from vegetable peelings and fruit including melon skins) and My uncle’s pigs seem to like it.

    The best thing to do in winter (I live in the north so we get colder winters than You) is just to leave it alone and treat it as you would in a summer day. My compost bin in the last two winters were frozen solid (couldn’t get lid off and the greens inside were rock hard). The key before winter starts is to use the year’s compost in the garden so that when winter arrives the compost bin is lighter than usual. To correct one point a compost heap does not have to get hot in order to produce compost (mine has not but it has produced a dark, no smelling mass and full of worms). All that is required is some sun, some water and the right ingredients- 50% greens and 50% browns including cardboard. The important thing is to mix the compost with a fork to ensure air enters the system. You can also use a compost accelarator but this is not necessary because after 6-9 months most organic material will degrade.

    Last year I used around 6 buckets load in my garden as a soil improver but remember compost from the bin cannot be used for growing seedlings as it does not have the right NPK ratio. REMEMBER HOME MADE Compost can only be used as a top soil improver.

  4. Mrs Green says:

    @Attila: Hi Attila, I’m aware of the grass peelings; thanks for the reminder – we put those in a different part of the garden, so there shouldn’t be a problem, but there could be from other gardens….

    @Antonio Pachowko: Pigs are a great idea, the neighbours probably wouldn’t be too impressed though! Thanks for all the tips about composting and for sharing your experiences 🙂

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