How to Compost in Winter


Composting is fairly easy during the warm seasons. Microbial activity increases and maintains its own levels when there is ample warmth in the air and plenty of rainfall. The sheer volume of seasonal plant waste and kitchen scraps from a gardening household will keep a compost pile going strong. Don't give up on composting during the winter, though. Even though the process slows down when the temperatures drop, you can still manage your vegetable waste by composting it.

Compost all Winter

Step 1

Stockpile browns in the fall. Browns are the dead leaves, twigs, old mulch and dead brown plant matter from your yard and garden that your compost needs to absorb excess moisture and provide aeration. Throughout the winter, keep adding greens. Greens are fresh, moist vegetable matter, like kitchen scraps. Add them in layers with the browns on your compost pile. Don't worry about turning or watering the pile. Use this opportunity to create a nicely layered pile that will heat up quickly as soon as the weather warms.

Step 2

Insulate around your compost pile in the winter. Use wood, foam board sheets or several layers of old cardboard, and build a fortress around your compost pile. Cover the top, too. This will provide some protection from freezing, and if you live in an area that has mild, but cold, winters, you might be able to prolong decomposition well into the winter months. Keep adding new material. On warmer days, open the top and allow some air in.

Step 3

Start a compost bucket, where you begin with a layer of browns and then layer kitchen scraps through the winter. Use a lidded bucket, bin or trash can. Keep it near the house for easy filling and empty it onto your compost pile occasionally. This is convenient if you live where a trek to the compost pile requires major bundling and boots.

Step 4

Chop or grind the pieces of matter you use in your winter composting so they are very fine. This will help introduce more air to the pile, so decomposition will speed up. Anytime there are a few warmer days, these small particles can activate your compost pile.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost pile or bin
  • Compost tumbler (optional)
  • Supply of browns
  • Supply of greens
  • Outside collection or storage can (optional)


  • Cornell University
  • Tips from The Compost Guy

Who Can Help

  • Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
Keywords: winter compost, composting during winter, cold weather compost

About this Author

Fern Fischer writes about quilting and sewing, and she professionally restores antique quilts to preserve these historical pieces of women's art. She also covers topics of organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family. For over 35 years, her work has been published in print and online.