Commercial compost bin

How to Deal with Kitchen Scraps in Winter


Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Henry Homeyer

Compost Breakdown Doesn't Happen Below Freezing

Most of us have compost piles that we use for weeds, grass clippings and those broccoli stems that grew blue fuzzies in the back of the fridge. But the gardening season is largely over and most of no longer pay attention to the compost pile. Mine is a long way from the house – it’s near the garden, but I don’t really want to trudge down there in hip-deep snow. So what should we do?

A basic bin for compost

First, recognize that your compost pile is not going to break down organic matter in winter. Once it has frozen, it’s just one big Popsicle. Second, accept that ecologically responsible citizens DO NOT throw kitchen scraps in the waste stream. There are too many of us, and if we all send stale bread and the soggy cereal that Junior didn’t eat to the dump, our facilities will soon be overwhelmed.

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So you can a) continue to trudge down to the garden and put your food waste into the existing compost pile, or b) Get a container to put near the back door for a winter’s worth of organic matter generated in your kitchen. One way to do that is to buy a simple plastic compost bin. Don’t waste your money on the rotating kind – compost is not going to break down in winter anyway. Come spring you can shovel it out and take everything down to your compost pile

Buying a compost bin? Simple is better. Avoid rotating bins.

Why bother with a contained compost bin near the house? It will keep dogs – yours or the neighbor’s – from getting sick eating compost. My corgi, Daphne,  got deathly sick as a puppy from something in an open compost pile. Raccoons, field rats and even opossums (yes, I’ve seen a few in the Upper Valley) are attracted to kitchen scraps, and you don’t want to attract them.

Drill holes in the bottom of a garbage can to make a winter compost storage bin on the cheap

Don’t want to spend the money on a bin for your kitchen scraps? Do you have an extra 30-gallon garbage can you can use? Drill a few large holes in the bottom for drainage. Make sure it has a tight-fitting lid, and it’s good to go. If you just use it when the snow is deep or the temperatures sub-zero, it should hold a winter’s worth of bad apples and potentially fatal fettuccini. That’s my plan!

Henry is the author of 4 gardening books. Visit his website by clicking here.  

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