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Add enough water to keep the pile damp and ‘cooking’. Every couple weeks during the warm part of the year is ideal. You can add air at the same time by stirring or poking the pile with a long tool like an aerator or length of rebar. (Tumbling bins can simply be turned.)

Finally, add a half-shovel of soil every few weeks to boost decomposition and neutralize any bad smells.

By following this basic recipe, you can get finished compost in as little as two months — although three or four months is more typical.

Once October rolls around there are a few things you can do to prepare for colder weather. In a prairie climate, compost freezes during the winter. You can still add material, but it won’t decompose until spring. This can cause volume challenges as nothing is shrinking.

If you have some finished compost in the fall, it is a good idea to harvest it and free up room. Compost is finished once it is brown and crumbly, smells earthy, and the green materials are totally gone.

Don’t go by the appearance of the edge of the pile — finished compost tends to hide in the middle. However, even without removing any compost in fall, there is another simple trick for conserving space in winter. Instead of taking scraps to the compost bin, place them in a large storage tote or garbage can just outside your back door. The cold will prevent any odours, and taking out the kitchen pail will be a snap.

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