Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Winter Composting with MCR Terry K.

Winter composting can be tricky in our climate, so we asked MCRs to share their experiences with year-round compost bins. MCR Terry K. details how he composts his organics when the weather turns cold!
My winter compost consists of 2 phases. I keep a worm compost indoors, and a traditional bin outdoors.

Worm Compost

The vermicompost bin consists of 2 five-gallon containers, one inserted into the other. The inner container has holes drilled into the bottom as well as into the lid for air. This is home to the worms and where the material gets added. I have placed a spacer in between the buckets, approximately 8 inches high, to keep them separated. This allows compost juice/tea to drain from the inner container to the outer. My house plants love a dose of this juice about once a month!

My worm bin, closed on the left, open in the middle, and on the right, the "compost juice" that drips down into the outer bucket.
The actual composting takes place in the inner container, where my worms turn kitchen scraps into castings. I keep this indoors during winter, and it is doing well! I have a sizable worm population now and plan to transfer some to an open-tub container soon.

I have one batch of completed compost ready for use on my lawn as top dressing in spring. I started to add it but waited too long in the fall. The ground had frozen and I didn’t want it to get washed away at spring thaw. I did add some as seen in the photo, and saved the rest. Part of this compost is in a garbage container and some in a hole I dug into the ground. I hope it is still good/active when I go to use it in the spring! I am still learning, so I will see what happens.

On the left, the initial application of compost as topdressing. On the right, the finished compost being saved for spring.

Outdoor Compost

My outdoor project is in a wooden container, consisting of garden and household organic scraps that was progressing well until I added too much liquid and froze it—it is pretty much dormant now due to the cold weather. There is a layer of tissue paper and coffee filters on top now thanks to the flu that I had last week.
My outdoor bin. On the left, covered up and hibernating! On the right, you can see the top layer of paper and tissue that I added after the freeze. 
Hopefully, when it warms up, I can get this working again and the paper will absorb some of the excess moisture. I may have to use some sort of starting process to get it going again. I will check with Mark, the City's Compost Programs Coordinator, on this.

During the winter, if I have more household scraps than the worms consume, I save them in a large container outdoors for use in spring. I was also saving my pasta water indoors, however that started getting pretty rank so I dumped it on the outdoor pile rather than waste it! That’s when the freeze problem occurred. The worms also seem to enjoy the pasta water.

I made some mistakes preparing for winter. I understand that although the process will slow down in winter it should still be somewhat active with microbes working in the middle of the pile. I hope to gain more information and be better prepared for next winter!

I am semi retired from the civil engineering field but continue to work on projects that interest me, especially if travel is involved to a warm climate during our winter.

I enjoy volunteering for worthy causes, most competitive sports, cycling, fishing, and gardening. I am most proud of my tomatoes, which I start from seed in April, then transplant to my garden in late May. I grow most of my own vegetables that I preserve for winter by freezing and more recently fermenting, although I have much to learn about the latter.

That’s me!

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