December brings a lot of leftovers: leftover decorations, leftover food, sometimes even leftover (or unwanted) gifts. The good news for composters like us is that the home compost pile or compost bin can help with some of that cleanup.
First, the food. Holiday meals may result in scads of kitchen wastes from food preparation. Much of that waste may be added to your compost bin or pile, especially if you have been able to maintain temperatures warm enough for composting. High-nitrogen wastes – like coffee grounds and leftover leafy greens – are some of the best to add to the compost mix, especially in the winter when lower temperatures slow decomposition.
Denser or starchier kitchen wastes (like potato peels, or fruit rinds and seeds) typically decompose more slowly. They may need to be buried in a pile of shredded leaves through the winter and then added to the compost pile in the spring. Be sure to cover those wastes well to keep down any odors, in case they do start to decompose; also guard such wastes from pests who may be sneaking a winter snack. Pests are also one good reason to avoid composting meat scraps, and fatty or oily foods, any time during the year.
If your holiday home décor includes a natural evergreen tree, you are likely going to have some spare needles. Keeping the tree well-watered while it’s on display will help keep the needles on the tree. Needles that fall off during transport can be swept up and either added to the compost pile, stockpiled with shredded leaves for spring composting, or used as mulch around home plantings.
Another word about composting those pine needles. They are acidic, which is why they make a great mulch for plants preferring an acidic soil. Acidic materials added to a compost pile can cause the pile to lose nitrogen. But unless your tree drops all its needles on the way to disposal, you are unlikely to have enough needles to lower the pH of your pile. This time of year, pine needles might simply be added to the top layer of leaves insulating many compost piles. As for the entire tree, most municipalities offer places to drop trees for recycling. If you have woods nearby, a spent Christmas tree may be added to brush piles or other wildlife shelter.
As leftover or unwanted gifts…they’re not likely to be suitable for composting, but there are certainly other ways to recycle them. Consider donating them to local stores reselling goods to benefit charity or passing them along to a friend you know might appreciate the new item you can’t (or don’t wish to) put to use. Whether or not you wrap up the gift (“regifting”) is entirely up to your own good tastes and preferences.