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will Compost happen in the winter?  RSS feed

 
                                  
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I have a new pile I just started with the cuttings from my flower gardens.  I'm in NY and winters coming. Should I just let it sit until spring and then add some chicken manure? It never seems to get hot during the winter months.

Thanks
 
Jordan Lowery
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Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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you can compost in the winter if you like, OR you can just let it sit ( freeze if it gets cold enough where you live ) and thaw and get cooking again in spring. if you want to compost in winter i suggest above ground rings made from hardware mesh ( the metal mesh i use 1/2 inch mesh ) this way the piles dont get too wet and go anaerobic easy. i find its best to turn the piles after it has rained and there is a few dry days before the next rain. last year i made over 200 gallons of compost over winter.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Location: Oakland, CA
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I have read that wine waste can help this a lot. 

From chapter 9 of the Humanure Handbook:

a friend was helping me process some of my home-made wine. The process created five gallons of spent wine as a by-product. When I had my back turned, the fellow dumped the liquid down the sink drain. I found the empty bucket and asked what happened to the liquid that had been in it. "I dumped it down the sink," he said. I was speechless. Why would anyone dump five gallons of food-derived liquid down a sink drain? But I could see why. My friend considered a drain to be a waste disposal site, as do most Americans. This was compounded by the fact that he had no idea what to do with the liquid otherwise. My household effluent drains directly into a constructed wetland which consists of a graywater pond. Because anything that goes down that drain feeds a natural aquatic system, I am quite particular about what enters the system. I keep all organic material out of the system, except for the small amount that inevitably comes from dishwashing and bathing. All food scraps are composted, as are grease, fats, oils, and every other bit of organic food material our household produces (every food item compost educators tell you "not to compost" ends up down a drain or in a landfill otherwise, which is foolish; in our household, it all goes into the compost). This recycling of organic material allows for a relatively clean graywater that can be easily remediated by a constructed wetland, soilbed, or irrigation trench. The thought of dumping something down my drain simply to dispose of it just doesn't fit into my way of thinking. So I instructed my friend to pour any remaining organic liquids onto the compost pile. Which he did. I might add that this was in the middle of January when things were quite frozen, but the compost pile still absorbed the spent wine. In fact, that winter was the first one in which the active compost pile did not freeze. Apparently, the 30 gallons of liquid we doused it with kept it active enough to generate heat all winter long.


If that result were just due to increased moisture content, perhaps freezing or increased convection due to denser air removes moisture from the pile quicker in colder than in warmer weather, which would be simple to fix.

If it were due to alcohol content, then presumably other sources of alcohol would have a similar effect; you might reach out through your social network for home brewers/distillers/vinters and use their wastes.  If your part of NY has wineries, perhaps the nearest one would be willing to part with a few buckets of marc. 

It might even be worth pre-fermenting the most delicate of your cuttings in a loosely-covered bucket with a spoonful of sourdough starter or hooch, if you're in the mood to try a zany and completely un-tested idea.  Growing sorghum as a green manure crop and fermenting bucket-length sections of stalk with yeast alone would be more certain to work, but that would be a longer-term plan.

I'm a big fan of deep mulch over and around compost piles, which you might try first if you don't do so already.  When space allows, I plan to have pallets full of loose straw or similar as a compost bin.  An insulating layer of browns helps the pile retain heat and moderate its moisture content, as well as drastically reducing odors.

 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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The excellent thing about compost is that for the most part you don't have to do anything:  it takes care of itself.

So, go ahead and add to it over the winter and don't worry about it.  It will freeze and thaw and freeze and thaw - no big deal.  Once it warms up a bit, it will start composting.

If you happen to have a HUGE pile of organic matter, then the stuff in the middle will compost away at 150 degrees while the temp outside might be 20 below.

 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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i remember Paul James the Garden Guy talking about sitting on his compost pile to warm up his backside in the wintertime
 
Jennifer Smith
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I am planning small compost piles inside my barn.  I noticed that If I don't dump my cart it gets hot fast.  I am thinking to keep some of that heat in my barn.

I am thinking to wire pallets together, strategically place them around, and fill as I clean stalls.  I will use plenty of sawdust to keep oders down.

... any thoughts? 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Mix something a little coarser than sawdust in with your cover material, to maintain good ventilation.

Depending on circumstances, it might be worthwhile to fill the pallets with straw.

In your placement strategy, consider convection. In still air, each pile will have its own convection plume of warm, moist, slightly stale air rising from it.  It's possible that the mosture will condense on feed stored overhead, for example.  A thicker layer of cover material will mean this plume of air will more closely resemble room air, although the total oxygen use and total warmth output are both fixed by the metabolic rate of the pile.  Less convection would mean more conduction (to the floor) and radiation (to all objects in sight) at a given metabolic rate.  A drafty enough barn will have all this air thoroughly mixed with the air outside, so maybe this is all moot, but if not, there should be some way to exhaust or condense this moisture while retaining most of the warmth.
 
Jennifer Smith
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Great!  I have a fairly drafty old metal barn, no overhead storage of feed or anything else at this point.  I have access to plenty of hay, old sawdust, old wood, and new sawdust, as well as branches or most anything else along these lines.  I can get free pallets as needed.  Or would chicken wire be better?  I have plenty of that too. 

I have a couple of spots picked out in the barn where the water used to pool and was ankle deep in muck before I started diverting rainwater.  Horses are, and have been, denied access.  Those are my planned sites for bins.  One at either end of the barn.  Only to be used when it is too muddy to go out with the cart.  On good days we will to composet in place getting ready for my trees in th spring. 
 
                
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I AM VERY NEW TO THE COMPUTER BUT SOMEHOW I HAVE FOUND YOUR SITE AND I LOVE YOUR INFORMATION I AM REGISTERED ON YOUR FORUM NOW BUT I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO USE IT OR THE RITE PLACE TO ASK QUESTIONS BUT I FOUND THIS SPOT SO IM GOING FOR IT SORRY IF IT MESSES UP ANYTHING !! ops: I AM TURNING MY LAWN ORGANIC THIS SPRING !!! THE PROBLEM IM HAVING IS MOSS AND LOTS OF SHADE . WHAT ADVICE DO U HAVE FOR ME?
 
Jennifer Smith
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Location: Zone 5
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Welcome KM, 

There is a whole lot of information on lawns at

http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/3.0
 
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