Process kitchen scraps indoors during winter for a continual supply of compost.

Indoor Composting During the Winter

by Arlene Miles

You don’t have to give up making compost during the winter. Although your outdoor pile won't be active in below-freezing weather, you can bring your composting indoors. By keeping the scraps indoors, you also prevent wildlife from picking through your compost. When done properly, indoor composting still provides you with a rich soil amendment.

Partial Composting

If you prefer to simply ready kitchen scraps for the outdoor compost pile, arm yourself with three 5-gallon buckets. Fill the first with equal portions of sawdust and dry peat moss or soil. Place 1 inch of dry leaves, straw or shredded newspaper on the bottom of the second and third buckets. Add kitchen scraps to the second bucket as they become available, sprinkling each time with the sawdust-soil mixture to absorb odors and excess moisture. When the second bucket is full, put it in a warm place and begin filling the third bucket in the same way. By the time the third bucket is full, the second is ready to throw on your outdoor compost pile. No turning is needed with this method.


The most common method of composting indoors uses redworms and microbes present in decaying materials to turn kitchen waste into rich, dark humus. Only redworms (Eisenia foetida), also known as red wrigglers, should be used for vermicomposting, as ordinary earthworms or night crawlers won’t do the job. Garden centers and online sources sell the redworms that eat scraps and help break them down into usable compost. The number of redworms you need depends on the size of the container. Place kitchen scraps onto a wetted bed of shredded cardboard, paper, peat moss or commercial worm bedding, and alternate layers of non-fatty kitchen scraps with bedding in either a large garbage can or compost bin. Everything needs to remain moist. The castings produced by the worms, along with further breakdown produced by the microbes, will produce usable compost in approximately three to four months.

Bag Composting

Bag composting relies on anaerobic microbes. Fill a garbage bag one-third full with soil or cured compost. Fill the next one-third with kitchen scraps and then fill the final one-third with shredded newspaper or yard waste. Add water to moisten the contents and close the bag tightly. Place the bag inside another one for strength and to reduce odors. Roll the bag at least once per week to help decomposition.

Commercial Composters

Commercial composters made for indoor use can help you turn kitchen scraps into black gold for your garden during the winter while virtually eliminating odors. These units can be expensive and bulky. Many use anaerobic microbes, sold with the units, to speed decomposition. Computerized units have the ability to handle dairy, meat, fish and pet wastes.

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