If you live somewhere with colder temperatures and snow in the wintertime, you might be wondering what to do with your backyard compost pile now that it’s November.

Keep reading for tips to winterize your compost pile!

Make it large

The larger your compost pile is, the more heat it will generate. Heat is vital to the decomposition of organic matter, so it’s important to keep the center of your pile warm throughout the winter if you can. The minimum recommended size of a compost pile is 3 cubic feet, but the larger the better for maintaining heat throughout the winter.

Separate finished compost

Remove any finished compost from your pile. This way you can add your food scraps and brown materials throughout the winter without it combining with what has already broken down. When you begin actively composting in the spring, your finished compost will be separate and accessible for gardening while your pile of new materials begins decomposing.

This is also a good idea because finished compost should be allowed to cure for several weeks at a minimum—over winter is a great time for this.

Don’t turn your pile in the winter

Once the weather has turned cold, it is best to not turn your pile until the warmer months of spring. Turning the pile in cold weather can cause it to lose heat and slow down or stop the decomposition process. You can cover your pile with a tarp or burlap to lock in heat and make it easier to add material to your pile.

Be okay with a slower process

While organic matter can continue breaking down during the winter, your compost pile probably won’t create compost that is ready to use by the springtime. The winter is typically a time to add materials to your pile that will really begin to break down in the spring when your pile “wakes back up.” So accumulate your materials and feel good that you are keeping organic matter out of the landfill, no matter the season!

Sami, co-owner of the zero waste store, New Moon Refillery, completed the Master Gardener program throughout the summer of 2023 in Denver, CO.