Composting uses dead plant materials to create a healthy soil addition or replacement. Often, homeowners have the most access to this plant material in fall when the leaves begin falling from the trees and pre-winter pruning is taking place. There is no need to wait for the weather to warm to begin composting all this material. Composting during winter is possible, especially if your winters have days above freezing temperatures, though it may take longer to produce a usable finished amendment.
Choose a 5 by 5 foot level area to start your compost heap. Lay down a layer of large branches and twigs to help oxygen reach the bottom of the pile, prevent standing water and keep the pile elevated off the frozen ground of winter.
Place a 6 inch layer of dead leaves, sawdust and straw on top the branch base. Follow this with a 4 inch layer of grass clippings, green plant material and kitchen scraps.
Sprinkle a commercial compost starter on top of the layers or place two shovel fulls of finished compost or topsoil on the pile. This introduces the microbes necessary to start the composting process.
Continue layering leaves, grass and soil until the pile is 3 to 4 feet high. Mix all the layers together thoroughly. Water if the pile is dry, as it must be slightly damp to compost properly.
Turn the pile one to two times weekly during the winter to encourage the microbes to stay active and compost evenly. If the pile freezes, resume turning once the pile begins to thaw. Use a pitchfork to turn the contents on the outside of the pile to the inside.