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2 stage composting through the winter

 
Marie Franklin
Posts: 2
Location: Zone 6b Great Lakes Region
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Hello all! If I seem "new" it's because I joined just to ask this question! Been lurking for several months and this community just seems filled to the brim with knowledgeable, nice people! Can't wait to start commenting on all the threads I've been reading.

But now - to the point of the question. I live in an urban area where some neighbors have had their outdoor compost piles called in to health officials for attracting "pests." My neighbors are close enough to me to directly watch my composting process, so I do have to be a bit careful. I want conversations to be great eye-openers to the benefits of composting, instead of complaint-generators! To this end, I've been using a "2 stage" composting system.

1. All my kitchen scraps go into a turnable bin composter directly outside my kitchen door. I mix them with dried leaves to get a good C:N ratio. This bin is extremely pest-proof, and, correctly managed, doesn't smell at all. No complaints so far!
2. Once they've broken down past the point of looking like kitchen scraps, but not quite to "soil" status, I remove them from the bin and add them into 2 chicken wire towers along my back fence, where I also place most of my yard waste throughout the year.

The problem? Living in zone 6b, we've gotten our first couple of hard freezes, and the compost tumbler has cooled down significantly. I don't think it's going to make it through the winter, even on the south side of the house, on a black driveway, and rotated regularly. The chicken wire towers, by contrast, remain warm and full of worms/other great stuff - I believe those will overwinter just fine. So - ideas for managing my kitchen scraps over the winter? We are trying to have a zero waste house and this is a priority for me. Also, should I empty my compost tumbler and store it in the garage? Our winters can be somewhat brutal, but if there's any way to help it keep going through the winter I'd try it!
 
R Scott
Posts: 3306
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Run the tumbler in the garage?

Build a third tower and fill it with the scraps directly. It will be next summer before it really stays cooking, but it well compost eventually.
 
Bill McGee
Posts: 185
Location: Southeastern Connecticut, USA
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My 6' x 6' pile only froze on the top couple of inches last winter. (I'm also in zone 6b)

Maybe add 1/2" 19 ga hardware cloth around the tower (and on the ground) to stop rodents.

You could also alternate adding to two towers if you notice too much un-composted food in a pile.

Use plenty of biomass cover to prevent odors.


 
Marie Franklin
Posts: 2
Location: Zone 6b Great Lakes Region
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Thanks for the great feedback! I am definitely contemplating adding a 3rd chicken wire tower just because the more the gardens expand, the more compostables I make! I'm loathe to fill it directly with food scraps because of the pest issue that may be perceived by neighbors. Admittedly I am new to composting, however, I was able to keep a good ratio of browns to greens and never had an issue with smelly compost in the tumbler.

A 6x6 pile that didn't freeze! In zone 6b! That's something to aspire to. How old is the pile? How often do you turn it? What do you add to it? I've been thinking about trying some pit composting in a corner of the yard which hopefully wouldn't freeze...thoughts?
 
Adriaan van Roosmalen
Posts: 23
Location: Netherlands (moderate maritime climate)
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You could look into composting with worms, but you would have to do this continuously, not only in winter.
If done well, a box with composting worms, does not smell. In winter you would have take measures that they don't freeze. I keep mine in the garage

Also see the informational video by the University of Main Extension Office.
 
Bill McGee
Posts: 185
Location: Southeastern Connecticut, USA
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I used Joe Jenkins Humanure handbook (you can view a pdf on http://www.weblife.org/humanure

Also it is available on Amazon or his website.

I completed my first year this June and the pile is aging another year. This years pile is going well in another spot.

This method is odor free if you use plenty of biomass cover and follow the method. His site also has a forum to answer questions. This might not be a good fit with your watchful neighbors but it is a good read.
 
Sean Banks
Posts: 153
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yeah vermicomposting with worms may be a better idea if you got neighbor issues......if you get a stock tank and add a few pounds of worms you should be able to process alot of organic waste.
 
charlie ryan
Posts: 13
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Here is a link to an article about vermicomposting inside. http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/vermicomposting You could process your scraps out of sight from neighbors altogether.

I've seen a couple of video's on the subject on YouTube as well.
 
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