If the lid of your compostabin is frozen solid don't give up
composting. Use a screwdriver or blunt
chisel to prise off the lid, then drape a strong plastic bag or sack
over the edge of the bin and push the lid back on. When you want to
lift the lid, pull up on the plastic bag and the lid will easily fly
off into the nearest snowdrift.
Itís cold, your compost bin is covered in snow and
everything is frozen hard but you can still keep composting.
Deep in your bin the micro-organisms that break down your kitchen
and garden waste are still at work, but when it is cold they work
During the summer, our compost bins work fast, rapidly turning
weeds, rhubarb leaves, grass clippings and prunings into fine
soil-like compost. You fill a bay and a couple of days later itís
shrunk to quarter the size.
The higher the temperature in the compost bin, the faster the
bacteria will work. But during winter, everything changes. We keep
adding to the compost bin and nothing seems to happen; it fills up
and weíve nowhere to put our raw ingredients.
KEEP THE COMPOST BIN WARM
It is very difficult keeping a plastic bin warm. You
could lag it with bubble film, but this, frankly, wouldnít make
enough difference. Keep the lid on and leave any snow round the
outside of the bin to act as insulation.
If you have a square New Zealand box, made from the traditional
wooden boards or the more effective recycled plastic ones, a winter
covering on top is important. This can be flattened cardboard boxes
or paper sacks, layers of old bubble film weighted down with stones
or any other cosy material.
Make sure it is easy to lift off at least part of the covering or
you will be discouraged from adding to your compost bin.
KEEP THE BALANCE GOING
You still need to mix green and brown, sappy and fibrous
material. Otherwise, kitchen waste on its on will start to smell,
and brown, fibrous material on its own wonít compost down.
So if you have only kitchen waste to compost:-
Add crumpled or shredded paper. This will absorb the surplus liquid
and create vital little air pockets.
Add some soil. Throw in a handful of topsoil from time to time or
scrape the soil off a leek, turnip or celery plant, straight into
your composter, before bringing indoors. This injects a fresh supply
of micro organisms.
No one wants a stinking, fusty heap of vegetation, caused by
composting kitchen scraps on their own. Aerobic compost bacteria
thrive in a damp, airy environment, and simply cannot survive in the
soggy, airless conditions suitable for anaerobic bacteria. These
micro organisms will produce compost, but you will get a disgusting
REMOVE FINISHED COMPOST
Make more space by removing any finished or nearly finished
compost. Place the unrotted material to one side and bag up the
rest, all ready for use next spring. Fork the fresh compostables
back into the bin, adding in some essential air as you turn the
compost. Again, mixing in an occasional handful of topsoil pays
Buy a Green Cone to deal with winter waste. This
food digester processes cooked as well as raw kitchen scraps. A
basket is sunk into the soil, and a cone, with an inner and outer
shell is screwed on top. The air between the shells warms up and is
pumped through the compostables in the basket, making this an
aerobic, clean-smelling process. Inevitably, it will work more
slowly in winter, but this is an excellent way of dealing with
kitchen scraps and feeding the ground at the same time. It does take
3 years to completely rot down in Scotland, but you may prefer not
to empty your Green Cone. Simply let it feed nearby cherry trees or
shrubs. A newer digester that came on the market 2 or 3 years ago,
is the Green Johanna: it has also been designed to process cooked
food at home.
Trench composting is specially useful for veg growers, but
it would also make a perfect site for a new shrub. Choose a bare
patch of ground, dig a trench, preferably 2 spitís [spadeís] depth,
and put the soil to one side. Every time you have a bucket of fruit
and veg scraps, tip them into the trench and cover with a thick
layer of soil. This will mask the smell of decaying vegetables, and
the whole process will add nutrient for next yearís crops. Runner
beans grow beautifully on a trench, as do tatties and courgettes.
Any greedy feeders, in fact.
Keep composting even if there is snow on the ground.