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Compost In Winter

Yesterday’s weather was in the forties for a first time in ages. I don’t think it’s been that warm yet in 2009. So, of course, I took a walk around the yard and visited the garden.

Since the yard is still mostly covered in snow, there’s not a lot to see. And there really isn’t anything going on in the compost bins.

These leaves have compacted down quite a bit. In the fall, the bins were filled to the top but as you can see now, we’re about half full. Even though there isn’t a lot of microbial activity in the pile when it’s freezing out, I think the cold temperature does help in breaking down the leaves structure. The constant freeze-thaw cycle that goes on all through the winter has got to help.

Once the weather warms up in a few months, I’m going to have to go crazy with the greens to get these piles cooking. They’re almost 100% leaves. Some good sources of greens are used coffee grinds and vegetable scraps. Another good way to get a leaf pile cooking is with blood meal. Blood meal is one of the highest sources of nitrogen that you can find in a non-synthetic fertilizer.

I’ll probably skip the blood meal though. I drink way too much coffee, so finding enough greens is never really a problem.


  1. Mathew said...
    There is another way that coffee provides a high nitrogen fertilizer- urine! If you water that leaf pile a few times a week throughout the winter, it will absorb the nitrogen and quickly turn to soil when the weather warms.

    Urine is normally nearly sterile, and even if you have a kidney infection, it would have to survive in the soil, then pass through the digestive system and bloodstream to infect another person's kidney.
    Anthony said...
    Yuck! Very cool information but gross too. Awesome!
    JGH said...
    So is everything melting there in NJ? We are up here in Nyack. Glad to see your leaves are breaking down. I threw lots of citrus peels into the bin over the winter and they're very moldy now. Do you think I should try to take them out?

    Hmmm, maybe I shouldn't have discouraged my potty-training son from watering the backyard!
    Paul Lamey said...
    Is it true that dog food will boost the nitrogen content?
    Anthony said...
    Yup, we're just about snowless now. Be careful with the citrus, you don't want too much in the pile. The high acid content is kind of anti-bacterial. And you don't want to mess with the bacteria in your compost. Small amounts should be fine though.

    Hi Paul,
    Depending on the brand of dog food, there could be a lot of preservatives in there that will slow down decomp in your pile. Once again, it's all about moderation. I'd probably just feed it to the dog.
    Anonymous said...
    I find in a pile of pure brown leaves, much of the height reduction is brought about from flattening of the leaves rather than decomposition, so it is compaction rather than decomposition. They sure need nitrogen in order to decompose. Mulching them up with the lawnmower helps as it gives the micro-organisms a greater surface area to work on.
    Green Diva said...
    Im in Colorado, snow on the ground, temps 31 F. I really want to get a compost started. A small size in the side yard(suburban) Really don't want to wait another 6 weeks..The temps were sunny and 64 yesterday , but more snow on the way...any TIPS. I'm a regular juicer and guilt ridden about the scraps now that the Guinea pigs are gone.

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