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Dakota Gardener: Don’t Stop Composting During the Winter

You can collect kitchen waste during the winter to compost during the summer.

By Carrie Knutson, NDSU Extension Agent, Grand Forks County

Composting is a great way to recycle waste from the yard and kitchen.

However, adding kitchen waste and maintaining a compost pile during the winter can take a lot of motivation, especially when walking outside requires cold weather gear and shoveling snow.

In an effort to learn more about composting, I participated in an online composting course. During that course, I learned I could collect kitchen waste during the winter to compost during the summer. The idea takes advantage of our cold temperatures by storing kitchen waste in a garbage bin.

Examples of kitchen waste that can be composted are coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, eggshells, and vegetable and fruit trimming and peelings.

Do not include meats, fats, dairy products and starches because they can attract flies and rodents when turning the kitchen waste into compost during the summer. These items need good compost pile management to decompose quickly. Do not include any items that might contain disease organisms, such as diseased plants and pet feces.

The first step is to collect a supply of browns, such as dead, dry leaves, to layer with your kitchen scraps during the winter. Other examples of browns that would work are sawdust, straw or hay. Keep the browns dry and store them in a place that is easy to get to in the winter. I store my dried leaves in a sturdy plastic garbage bin right next to the backyard garage door. Heavy-duty trash bags also would work to store the browns.

Next, you need a container to layer the kitchen scraps with the collected browns. Anything with a cover will work as a container. Sturdy, flexible garbage bins, 5-gallon pails or storage totes are good examples. During the winter, simply add kitchen scraps and top with a layer of the collected browns and repeat.

I like garbage bins for storing my kitchen waste during the winter. The garbage bins are fairly easy to move as long as they don’t get too heavy. They can be moved out of the way once the weather gets nicer. I can drill holes in the bottom and sides so I can compost right in the container.

Once the weather warms, add the winter composted materials to your existing compost pile or start a new one and mix well.

This was my first year of saving kitchen waste through winter, then turning it into compost once summer arrived. I would say it was a success. The kitchen compost was ready to work into my garden this fall.

What are you waiting for? Get your bins ready and start collecting leaves. Happy gardening!

For more information about gardening, contact your local NDSU Extension agent. Find the Extension office for your county at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/extension/directory/counties.

NDSU Agriculture Communication - Oct. 6, 2020

Source: Carrie Knutson, 701-780-8229, carrie.knutson@ndsu.edu

Editor: Ellen Crawford, 701-231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu




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