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how can I start an outdoor compost pile in the winter?

 
Nathan Paris
Posts: 80
Location: http://projectecogrid.com/
tiny house transportation woodworking
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I have never composted before so this is all new to me. Can anyone tell me how I can start a compost pile outside during the winter? I want to get one started but Im just not sure where to start.

Thanks for your help!!
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1356
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Its better than sending it to the land fill. Watch for the critters because you will be attracting them to your delicious easy to get food.
As for myself, I have some worms indoor that eat their weight (half to full weight) in leftover everyday. How much trash do you generate per day on average.
http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/redwormsedit.htm
http://www.vermifactory.com/item/VERMIHUT-3T-DG.html

worm composting has 1000x the diversity in good oxygen loving microbes(think worm tea), whereas hot composting only has two types of bacteria(anaerobic)
and they are only found in the soil at low levels.
 
Keith Odell
Posts: 60
Location: Indiana
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While I am a big fan of worm composting, outdoor composting is great also. You don't mention if your composter needs to meet neighborhood standards.
If neighbors are an issue, one of the big box hardware places have cheap, black bins ($30 - $60) or try craigslist.
If not, then get 12' of 1/2" hardware cloth ($15) and some zip ties.
Add a 12" layer of shredded cardboard, newspaper, leaves and/or straw to the bottom. These are your browns.
Add your kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags. These are your greens.
Cover your greens with browns. In the winter in Ohio you won't get a lot of activity but it will be like a compost bank deposit - by spring you will have interest.
Error on the side of too many browns.

Stay away from tumblers for now. They typically disappoint until you really know what you are doing.

If you ask 100 people who compost there will probably be 110 different answers on how to do it.

My thoughts are:
keep it simple
don't spend any more than you have to
everything rots
you can't ruin it but you may have to fix it

Do a search for: composting 101, pallet compost bins and hardware cloth compost bins

Get started, good luck and have fun.
 
Jerry McIntire
Posts: 114
Location: Oak savannah - Viroqua, Wisconsin - zone 4 - 34"/yr
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Nice summary Keith. I love hardware cloth bins. My mistake when I first used them was not adding browns. Twice as much brown as green is not too much!

Now I have two larger combination panel (animal fencing) bins, with a roofed area between them to collect dry browns and keep garden tools out of the rain.

 
Steven Feil
Posts: 242
Location: South Central Idaho
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Don't give up on Winter composting.

We were dumping our buckets in the pile from time to time in the early Winter. At some point, in the dead of winter (zone 5-6) when I went up to dump I noticed that the pile was not frozen. I added some moldy hay and alfalfa. After a few days I went up to check it and it was hotter than the dickens. Not as hot as a Summer compost, but it was working!

Also, I saw that someone mentioned that hot composting is anaerobic. I do not believe that is true since you have to TURN and AERATE the material to get it to fire off.
 
Ardilla Esch
Posts: 202
Location: Northern New Mexico, Zone 5b
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The activity of a winter compost pile depends a lot on how big the pile is (and your climate). A small household compost pile started in winter probably won't be too active. But as long as it isn't creating a nuisance there really isn't any harm in it. It will get going when conditions are right...

I have been making large horse manure / stable bedding compost piles each winter. I do it in the winter to avoid having to add huge amounts of water during our hot, dry summers. The piles tend to be about 8 to 12 cubic yards and they heat up with no problems whatsoever. A pile turned every few days will maintain 150F or more for six weeks or so even with freezing temps. A small pile of a cubic yard won't be able to reach or maintain high temps. You need enough volume to insulate the active core of the pile. How big the pile needs to be for active composting depends on your climate and what the pile is made of. I do high temp composting of the manure and bedding to make sure weed seeds are killed off and so I can apply large amount to the soil without worrying about burning plants.

If you don't care how quickly your pile composts - just pile up what you have to work with and do the best you can with maintinaing adequate moisture. If your winters are wet - keeping moisture down might be your struggle...
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