I don't think I could even *find* my compost bin under all the snow that fell during that terrible onslaught of wintry weather!
For me, the answer to the problem of winter composting is simple: we'll rely on our indoor worm bins. When and if the worms get overloaded, we'll add more bins. This way, we'll be able to continue composting our kitchen scraps through the winter, reducing the amount of garbage we send to the landfill and building up a beautiful supply of compost for the spring planting season.
But vermicomposting isn't for everyone. To illustrate, allow me to share an e-mail I recently received from a fellow sustainer in Tosa. He asked the following:
Good Morning Heather, Do you have any experience with winter composting without worms? My wife doesn’t like the worm idea indoors. I found one solution at finegardening.com that sounds pretty interesting. Just wondering your thoughts. Dave in Tosa
I told Dave I've never tried indoor composting without the assistance of the amazing red wiggler. Of course, as a vermicompost enthusiast, I couldn't help but try to convince him to give vermicomposting a shot. I told him:
You know, worms aren’t that bad – esp. if you are very careful to keep a tidy bin and follow vermicomposting rules. Do you have a basement, or some other out of the way area your wife doesn’t frequent? You could try keeping them tucked away in some place so she doesn’t have to see them regularly.
Truth be told, my husband is not a big fan of the worms, but he tolerates them b/c he knows they are little wonderworkers. I used to keep them in my kitchen, which was fine, but at least a couple of times in warmer weather the fungus gnats got out of control. When that happened in the summers of ’08 and ’09, we moved the bins outdoors, where they remained just outside my kitchen door. When it got cold I moved them in again. Now they’re in my basement, which seems to work well. It’s cool down there, which keeps the gnats down, but not so cool that it kills the worms. ...
Do you and/or your wife garden or grow any plants indoors? If so, the worms, I've found, are indispensible in organic gardening. And the "compost tea" that can be made from worm castings and compost keeps indoor plants very healthy and happy.
I should make it clear that while I think every household should have at least one worm bin, the last thing I would want to do is encourage marital discord. IMHO a spouse (or roommate, or child) should never stress over sustainability techniques he or she is not ready for. Hopefully, my friend will find an alternative solution that appeases his spouse if she's still not ready for worms. And who could blame her? Worms aren't exactly the most appealing creatures on first glance.
I asked Dave to let me know if the winter composting solution mentioned in the finegardening.com article above works for him (and his wife). I'll let you know what he reports. Who knows -- maybe I'll try this method myself.
Finally, I'd like to add two comments about the gnat problem that has plagued my vermicomposting efforts since the get-go:
I think I'm going to gather a bagful of autumn leaves and keep it beside my worm bins this winter for composting. I wonder if the leaf mulch will be healthier for the worms and will do a better job of covering waste. Plus, it's probably better to send old newspaper to the recycling center, rather than into the earth. Aside from the dubious inks and other contaminants in the paper, reusing dead tree matter via recycling prevents further trees from being harvested.