Composting can do wonders for your garden and environment. New composters have many questions about the process. One of the most common queries is about the best season for composting and if it is possible to do it all year round. Let’s explore compost during different seasons and answer this question.
So, Can you compost all year round? Yes, you can compost all year round. However, composting proceeds at different speeds during different seasons. It is fastest in summer and slowest in winter.
Composting in winter
Composting depends on several microorganisms. These microorganisms love high temperatures and thrive in it. When they grow in number, increase the digestive activity, even more heat is generated. In winters, more heat escapes the pile than what is generated by the microbes. So the microbes can’t get the optimal temperature they desire, and the composting slows down.
Winter is undoubtedly hard on composting microbes. However, that does not mean that the process stops. The composting pile is very much alive and functioning in winter; it’s just slower.
The harshness of winter in your area will determine the speed of composting. Even when it’s snowing, and the compost pile becomes solid, some microbial activity remains. When you have a lovely sunny day, and the pile gets some heat, the process gets back on track.
Winter composting tips
1. Increase the size of your composter
According to physics, smaller objects freeze quickly compared to larger ones. So, a bigger bin will take longer to freeze.
Furthermore, Nobody loves to go out in freezing winter every day to feed their composting bin. If you have a bigger bin, you can collect a few day’s worths of food scraps in your kitchen or freezer and dump them once in a few days.
2. Keep Adding Stuff
Even though the composting is going slower, you should not stop adding new scraps. Though keep in mind that you need to add plenty of brown materials as well. The browns comprise straw, sawdust, etc. These can help in balancing the moisture levels. Make sure that you store your browns aways from moisture, or else they will get soggy.
3. Keep the bin covered
It’s essential to keep the composting bin covered, else the snow and rain seep in and make your pile overly wet.
Too much water is not suitable for the composting process. It makes it harder for microbes to access air that slows down the process even further.
You can use a simple tarp or any other waterproof covering for this purpose.
4 . Insulate the bin
Another good way of combating winter is to insulate your composting bin. This helps in heat retention and keeps the process going. You don’t have to go too crazy with this idea. You can use leaf bags, bales of hay, or piles of straw.
Whatever you decide to use, make sure it’s not something that can disintegrate and create a messy problem for you.
5. Indoor Composting
If you have space, you can transfer your composting bin inside. The bin can take advantage of your indoor heating and retains good speed.
6. Use Bokashi Composting
Bokashi composting uses fermentation and is less dependent on temperature. Since it uses a sealed bucket, you can place it inside any odor issues.
You can read more about bokashi composting here.
Composting in spring
Spring is the time when the temperature starts to rise and composting picks up the pace.
If you followed the best practices during the winter, you would be rewarded in spring.
Spring is also an excellent time to start a new composting pile. The raw materials needed for composting are also in good supply after spring cleaning of your garden and flowerbeds.
Spring composting tips
Whether you are resuming your winter pile or starting a new one, here are some valuable tips
1. Sustain the correct moisture levels
When the composting pile melts after winter, you can get elevated levels of moisture in your pile. Also, if you added more fresh scraps without carbon-rich dry materials, you will notice that your pile is wetter than its needed
Too much water prohibits the pile from heating up and pushes it towards foul-smelling anaerobic composting.
The too dry pile is also wrong as it can dehydrate and kill bacteria and worms.
An excellent way to ensure correct moisture levels is to check the consistency of your pile. If it feels like a wet sponge, you are going in the right direction.
2. Turn it up
If you did not turn your composting pile during the winter, now is an excellent time to start. Turning helps in spreading the ingredients evenly through the pile. If you don’t turn it often, the pile’s center will have the maximum activity, and the outer edges will have the minimum.
As composting is an aerobic process, it needs oxygen to work. Turning helps in circulating the oxygen throughout the compost.
Use a pitchfork to turn the pile atleast twice a week.
3. Use smaller bits
Smaller bits compost faster compared to the bigger ones. Make sure to chop grass clippings, leaves, food particles, etc., before adding them to your pile.
You can use an old shredder or grinder for this purpose. A lawnmower is also an excellent way to shred leaves and plants.
4. Use Compost Activator
Even though you don’t necessarily need a compost activator, but it speeds up things. You can add a compost activator to both old and new piles.
Old compost can also be used as an activator. It has everything needed to jumpstart the process.
Composting in summer
Summer is the best and easiest time to compost. The ambient temperatures make it easy for the pile to heat up and reach the optimal conditions.
Summer composting tips
1. Don’t let it dry
In summers, excessive heat and dry air can quickly remove the moisture and dry up the pile. It’s essential to check the compost for moisture content regularly.
If you realize that it’s too dry, sprinkle some water on the top. Don’t add too much water at once; it will clog up the pile and choke the microbes and worms.
If you like to be precise with the water levels, you can use a moisture meter. These are precise and will last you a long time
2. Place it in the right spot
If you keep your composting bin in sunlight, it will heat up too fast, and you risk your worms dying. Too much shade is also not ideal as you won’t be able to reap the full benefits of the summer.
It’s best to keep the pile in a partially shaded area to get the best of both worlds.
You can check the temperature levels to see if the pile is in the correct location. The excellent range is 135°F to 160°F or 57°C to 71°C. Temperatures above 160°F or 71°C are not recommended
3. Keep Feeding the pile
You can compost more significant amounts of scraps in summer compared to other seasons. So, it would be wise to take advantage of these great conditions and produce more compost.
While feeding the pile, ensure that you keep the ratio of greens and browns in mind. You get nitrogen from the greens like cattle manure and vegetable scraps, and you get carbon from browns like cardboard and sawdust. Add four parts of browns for 1 part of greens.
Composting in fall
Fall brings in an ample supply of compostable materials. With falling leaves and dried-up plants, you can keep your bin full.
Dried leaves are an excellent source of carbon. Combine these with nitrogen-rich grass clippings, and you have the perfect pair.
Make sure you wait till the leaves turn brown. Also, examine if they are not moldy or rotten. The best composting leaves are deciduous.
Fall composting tips
1. Protect it from fall rains
Fall rains can drench your pile with water and leave you with mess. To prevent that, cover your compost with a tarp or use an enclosed container. This also helps in keeping the pests and animals away.
2. Prevent the Matting
It’s easy to get excited by the plenty of leaves and grass clippings and add them all at once. If you don’t mix them properly, they can form mats in your pile and halt the process.
3. Control the water content
Grass clippings and vegetables are over 80 % water. These can add excess water into your pile without you realizing it. The good news is that you have your dried leaves to soak up this excess water and bring down the moisture levels.
You should not worry too much about seasons when it comes to composting. As you gain more experience, you would be able to do it easily all year round.