Steam rising from the center of a winter compost pile…the only thing that beats that beautiful February sight is paging through seed catalogs on a long winter’s afternoon.
But, alas—as I stab my pitchfork into the icy crust of last fall’s leaves and plunge into the hole where I have been burying my winter buckets of kitchen scraps, it is frozen through, an immovable chunk of stuff. I trudge back to the garage, with my pitchfork dragging dejectedly alongside as I scratch my head, wondering how I can fix it.
Here are a couple of ideas (or things to think about next October when you’re winterizing your pile).
Insulation! Your microbes need continued warmth to stay active. The ambient air temperature affects the outsides of your pile, so you give the inside more of a fighting chance if you put a barrier between your pile and the world. I’m not inclined to get fancy and build a block wall around my pile—shoot, I couldn’t even build one for a fire pit let alone a compost pile. Instead, if your pile’s construction allows it, you can work large sheets of leftover styrofoam into the sides of it (any large appliance order will leave you with some!)
Top it Off! This is something you can do even if you’re in midwinter. Toss an old rug, a tarp, or something to cause water to run off the sides and away from the (hopefully) hot middle of your pile. You can also throw bagged leaves on top–in the bag–if they’re still around.