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Indoor winter compost?

Hi everyone, I have no experience in composting but I'm about to set up a composting bin and I have a couple of questions:

I currently live in Ohio and temperatures during winter tend to hover around late 20s - early to mid 30s (ish) so I was considering storing my composting bin in my garage. What do you guys think about garage storage?

Somewhat related to question 1 - Will ants be a problem? I'm not sure ants will be a problem in winter (I just moved here), but in you guys have common problems with ants?

Actually, here is a follow up question...

Would garage storage even be necessary during snowy winters?

Greener Thumb
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Joined: Thu Sep 09, 2010 4:50 pm
Location: MO

Welcome to the forum. I live in central MO which has a climate very similar to Ohio. Compost won't do a whole lot in the dead of winter - pretty much freezes into a giant block - "compostcicle" - but before it freezes up in fall, and as it thaws in spring, and on those random warmer days in between, things do happen, albeit slowly. Microbes work a bit, and just as importantly, the freezing and thawing breaks down plant material into smaller particles, hastening decomposition. So, you don't really need to worry about keeping it warm and cozy for the winter.

There are also good reasons not to. Having said that, if you still want to do it, it's a free country, and it certainly wouldn't hurt it. Just keep in mind that it's likely to produce some brown leachate that will stain your floor unless you have it sitting in something to catch it. And mice like the insulating properties if it's not too wet. And if your garage is really warm enough, you may get fruit flies and other critters living in it, and they, along with the aforementioned mice, may not follow any directions given by you to stay in there. Finally, although compost isn't supposed to smell bad, in an enclosed space you may notice an odor. Multiply all these problems by two if you're adding kitchen scraps to it all winter.

Now, a well managed worm bin in a warmer place (basement for example) shouldn't have these problems. I'm just talking about a cubic yard sized compost pile in your garage. I don't think I'd do it.

I make sure I have adequate room in my bin before freeze-up to handle the winter's kitchen waste, plus I keep leaves around to layer with that stuff as I add it. In spring the bin is full and I turn it and move on to another batch.

Greener Thumb
Posts: 970
Joined: Thu Sep 09, 2010 4:50 pm
Location: MO

Oh, on the subject of ants: whether they would stay active depends on the temperature. Usually if they are in a compost pile it is either because it's too dry (moist enough for composting is too wet for ants) OR the compost is done and needs to be used. At least in my experience.

The compost pile is a very active community of bugs and microbes, and is best left fairly far from the house.

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Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 7:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M(11/B)

I agree. My winter composting consists of outdoor open piled up kitchen and garden waste, leaves, and straw outside, as well as a black plastic enclosed (with vent holes) compost bin in which I quickly open the lid and toss in the excesss kitchen waste during winter (not much covering or composting until spring thaw), and -- since last winter -- worm composting bin and Bokashi composting bucket in the kitchen.

Worm compost is harvested in spring during seed starting, and then put to rest for the rest of the year (no active composting inside) and bokashi compost is slowly fed to the worms and is used to kick-start the outside compost piles in spring. Again, no active composting inside after the weather warms up.

A worm bin doesn't need to be as ventilated/aerated as compost bin without worms, and "composting" will happen faster with the worms' help. :wink: If your garage is warm enough, you may be able to situate your worm composting trays out there (general consensus seems to be that multiple bins are more efficient -- I have a commercial system with multiple trays). Many people situate the worm compost in the basement, but I don't have one.

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Super Green Thumb
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Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

I'm in Ohio also. I have an outdoor compost pile and a worm bin in the basment. The outdoor compost pile is frozen, but I do keep adding to it all winter (the worm bin is new and doesn't use up as much kitchen scraps as we make). For the outdoor pile, I just dump the kitchen scraps on the frozen pile and cover them with a bunch of leaves. It all freezes up, but as soon as it warms up in spring, it goes back to working.

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Super Green Thumb
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Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 1:59 pm
Location: TN. 50 years of gardening experience.

If you have a very large compost pile outside in the winter it will do fine the center will generate heat and the top layer acts like insulations. It has been down in the Teens here for several weeks at night and in the 20s and 30s during the day. My sheet metal compost ben is 5 ft across 3 ft high and it seems to be doing fine. I have 2 fence wire compost bins 4.5 ft across 4 ft high they are not doing as good as the sheet metal compost bin. I think the fence wire lets too much air flow so it gets colder down deep inside the compost pile in the winter.

Last year I put some compost in my garage in 5 gallon buckets mostly as storage for winter I didn't want the buckets to full up with water setting outside. I forgot about the 3 buckets about May I discovered it composted pretty well in the unheated garage. It is probably 30 to 50 deg in the garage most of the winter. Garage is attached to the house and the hot water heater is in there so it is always a bit warmer in the garage than outside.

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