Winter Composting Indoors

Early last month a trip to the compost pile was impossible. Even if I had survived drifts of snow and slippery ice to get there, not much happens in a compost pile in cold weather. Putting the kitchen scraps in the outgoing trash went against my composting principles. A timely article caught my eye: two ways to compost indoors!

Method One uses those voracious composters, red worms. Put the worms in a bin with a loose-fitting lid, along with shredded newspaper and a little soil. Feed the worms kitchen waste as fast as they can eat it.

Method Two utilizes three 5-gallon buckets with loose-fitting lids. Fill one bucket with a mixture of equal parts dry sawdust (or peat moss) and dry soil with a little limestone added. In bucket 2 put an inch of dry straw, leaves or shredded newspaper in the bottom. Add kitchen scraps a little at a time, covering them each time with a sprinkling of the sawdust-soil mixture to absorb odors and excess moisture. Chop up large pieces and let water drain from anything that is very wet before adding it to the bucket.

Don’t add anything you wouldn’t put in your outdoor compost pile. When bucket 2 is full, set it aside and start filling bucket 3. By the time bucket 3 is full, #2 will have begun composting and be ready to dump on your outdoor compost pile. Keep the bucket you are filling and the sawdust-soil mixture right in the kitchen where warmth will speed up decomposition.

Emily Roark

For detailed information on composting with worms (vermi-composting) see our Worm Composting  page.

Composting Outdoors

J. I. Rodale (1898-1971), the founder of Organic Gardening magazine, once said, “In the soft, warm bosom of a decaying compost heap, a transformation of life to death and back again is taking place.” And organic gardening works so well because it mimics nature! Nature builds a structure, lets it exist for a while, lets it die and break down, and be used again to create something new. What a plan!!!

Composting, then, is part of your job description if you want to grow organically (and healthfully!). All you have to do is to save leaves, coffee grounds, sawdust, animal manure (but not from dogs or cats or any other carnivores), and all kitchen scraps except for meat and dairy products. That’s it! Everything else is merely enhancement — something to speed up the process. You don’t have to “watch your Ps and Qs” with composting, but you will benefit from watching your “Gs and Bs”! That’d be your good ol’ “Greens and Browns.” Greens can be fresh leaves, plants, kitchen scraps, green grass (but mix in well or you’ll have an anaerobic layer), weeds (omit pernicious ones, such as garlic mustard, quackgrass, bindweed, etc.), seaweed (if you can get it!), flowers, chopped fresh prunings, manure. Browns can be fallen leaves and dead plants (don’t use any part of a diseased plant), pine needles, chopped twigs, shredded newspaper, eggshells, wood chips, corncobs, sawdust.

And what are the functions of compost and humus? They improve structure, retain moisture, aerate, fertilize, store nitrogen, neutralize soil toxins, release nutrients, feed microbial life, and help plants resist changes in the soil pH. Plus you’re doing the ULTIMATE in recycling!


Do I need a bin?
No! A pile of compost can be surrounded by chicken wire, expensive compost bins or nothing at all.
Do I need to add a nitrogen source if I add wood chips to my pile?
Yes! (greens)
Do I need to turn the pile?
No! (turning just hastens the process.)
Do I need to take my compost pile’s temperature?
No! (but if you’re a CC, go ahead!)
What is a CC? Oh!
That’s an easy one: a compulsive composter!
Won’t the odor be offensive to the neighbors?
Not if you do it right!






fresh leaves, plants, kitchen scraps, green grass, flowers, chopped fresh prunings, manure (from herbivores)
brown leaves and dead plants (don’t use any part of a diseased plant), pine needles, chopped twigs, shredded newspaper, eggshells, wood chips, corncobs, sawdust

Give it a whirl. Your soil and plants will definitely thank you.

Emily Roark


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