Winter Composting - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Winter Composting

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Salisbury, MD. The Grannies would like to share some winter composting experiences with you. Winter composting, as many of you know, is pretty much limited to disposal of vegetable matter from your kitchens.

One of the Grannies received a "composting pail" as a Christmas gift from her Significant Other. Now, some of you who are not organic gardeners may be thinking, "Oh, sure. That's what I'd really like for Christmas. An inside garbage can. Ranks right up there with a vacuum cleaner or toilet brush!" The response from the Gardening Grannies (the really cleaned up version, I assure you) can be best summarized by saying, ‘we respectfully request you re-think that reaction'.

Seeing the highly decorative composting pail sitting on Granny Greenthumb's counter, a temporary silence was followed by the ruffling of catalog pages as the Gardening Grannies thumbed through their catalogs as soon as they arrived at their respective domiciles. After reviewing and doing a group evaluation of the various options, the Grannies agreed that, no matter what your style preference, the single most important feature is that it have a replaceable carbon filter of some sort (all of the good ones do). Immediately behind that is the requirement that you be able to obtain biodegradable bags (there are some terrific and inexpensive ones made from cornstarch) to fit the unit.

The Gardening Grannies agree that one of the nicest selections can be found in the Gardener's Supply Catalog ( The Grannies wish to assure you that they have no financial interest in the company nor do they receive any compensation (monetary or other) from the mention of this catalog. To continue, the Late Winter 2011 catalog edition has an excellent range of choices the compost pails come in a wide variety of colors and styles that range from plastic to stoneware to stainless. Another option you will want to consider is do you really want something else sitting on your counter top? If not, check out the under-the-counter version that, according to Granny Griffith, is really quite handy. She also swears that she has not emptied it in two weeks and it still has absolutely no odor. Amazing.

And now, the answers to three common questions new-to-the-concept-of-winter-composting folks are likely to ask:

1) How do you decide what can go into your composting pail? The Gardening Grannies ascribe to the simplest possible answer and that is "if it grew and came out of your (or someone else's) garden, it can go back in via your compost pail." To further elaborate, the items you don't want to include in any form, would be something of animal origin such as meat scraps, bones, milk products, etc. Stick to vegetable based product. If you switch to unbleached biodegradable coffee filters, it takes the mess out of the process of composting coffee grounds because you can compost the entire thing instead of shaking the grounds out of the filter.

2) When I empty my compost pail, what am I supposed to do with it? The Grannies wish to remind you that you have two choices: 1) put it in a small garbage can in your garage and deal with it later or 2) put on your boots and head out to your compost pile and toss it in right away.

3) Won't it stink and attract unwanted critters? The answer is a firm "no" with the qualification of "if you do it right". ‘And just what does that mean?', you are no doubt thinking. First of all, critters are not generally attracted to additional vegetable matter in a compost pile. As you go along in the gardening season, you will be covering up your additions from the kitchen with leaves, weeds, clippings and other garden trimmings and it won't be noticeable to you or most varieties of garden marauders.

So! Off your rockers and get started on composting, one of the finest examples of recycling we can think of.

The Gardening Grannies are a group of mature and Master Gardeners who live, love and garden on the Delmarva Peninsula. To contact them with your thoughts and ideas, write to

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