Can You Compost In Winter?

Composting is a really great way to recycle garden or kitchen waste in an ecological and sustainable way.

But can you also compost in winter?

In this article you’ll learn how to keep composting going even in winter and which waste you can spread in winter or which you should rather dispose of elsewhere.

Kann man im Winter kompostieren

Even in winter, you can still compost waste without any problems. However, you should take care to avoid waterlogging in the compost, because otherwise the composting process can come to a halt. Therefore, on the one hand, you should not compost wet or too moist waste – such as wet leaves, wet tea bags or liquids – in winter. On the other hand, you can cover the compost, mix it regularly or loosen it with structural materials to avoid waterlogging.

What do you have to pay attention to when composting in winter?

Even in winter and despite sometimes very low temperatures, the rotting process in the compost is usually maintained.

In a well-filled compost, this is achieved mainly by the so-called self-heating insulation of the compost. This means that the previously spread compost material creates such a tight bond and forms a self-contained shell that protects against cooling and retains heat, similar to how the insulation of a house works.

So you can compost in winter without any problems and you don’t have to worry about the compost not decomposing further.

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However, in order to compost successfully in winter and maintain the rotting process, you should make sure that…

…waterlogging in the compost is avoided in winter

…you apply the right waste to the compost in winter as well.

In the following chapters you will learn why these two factors are so important for composting in winter and how you can easily ensure that your compost does not get too wet in winter and contains the right mix of waste.

How do you avoid waterlogging in your compost in the winter?

Too much wetness is detrimental to compost at any time of year, however, it should not be too wet, especially in the winter.

More specifically, too wet compost leads to the proliferation of putrefactive bacteria, which makes the compost smell unpleasant. In addition, vermin are attracted and, in the worst case, too wet compost can cause the rotting process to stop.

You can read more about the effects (and possible causes) of excessively moist compost here.

With the following 6 tips, you can make sure your compost doesn’t get too wet in the winter and that you can compost during the cold season:

Mixing the compost in the fall

Already in autumn you can provide for a good compost in winter. To do this, you can mix the compost well in late autumn, as long as it is not yet frozen.

This will break up any compaction, aerate and mix the different layers and materials once again, and drain off excess moisture.

Spreading structural materials

Especially in winter, you should make sure that you spread enough structural materials on the compost.

Structural materials are mainly coarse, dry and wooden garden waste that loosen up the compost, aerate it and thus ensure a balanced climate.

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Brushwood, sawdust, chopped wood, small branches or dry leaves are among these materials. You can also collect and store these very well already in the fall and then regularly mix them into the compost during the winter.

Do not compost waste that is too wet in winter

Make sure that you do not put any waste on the compost that is too wet in winter. This is because the excess moisture cannot evaporate sufficiently in winter and can lead directly to waterlogging.

Alternatively, the excess moisture can freeze and suddenly thaw in the spring, which can then create small puddles and thus even more wetness in the compost.

Cover compost in winter

To avoid waterlogging and ensure proper composting in the winter, you can cover the compost.

Depending on the location of the compost, covering it in winter may not be necessary. However, if the compost is very open, it makes sense to cover it. By the way, here you can find a description of the ideal compost location.

On the one hand, natural materials such as straw, reeds or a thick layer of leaves are suitable for covering. Alternatively, you can use old boards, jute bags, reed or bamboo mats or mulch foil.

Sprinkle a little lime or ash on the compost

In winter, you can occasionally throw a bit of lime or ash on the compost.

Due to their porous structure, both materials bind excess moisture and also balance the pH level on the compost.

Overall, though, you should be careful not to apply too much lime. If you want to know how much lime or ash is useful, check here.

Loosen the compost from time to time

If the compost becomes compacted, which can happen in winter due to the snow and cold, you should loosen it up from time to time.

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To do this, it is best to use a pitchfork to lift or loosen the different layers as much as possible or mix them together.

This will ensure that the different materials are really mixed and that an ideal climate can prevail.

Which waste can be composted in winter and which not?

In general, it is important to reduce the amount of wet waste in the compost during the cold season. If the compost becomes too wet, it can stop the composting process and lead to rotting, musty smells and vermin.

Therefore, in the following you will find an overview of waste that you can continue to throw on the compost in winter or that you should rather dispose of elsewhere.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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