How to Compost Leaves the Easy Way

Raking up Future Compost!
Raking up Future Compost!

Fall is coming and so are those wonderful leaves.  Yes, I said  wonderful leaves!  Did you know that those leaves falling outside  your window are a great source of organic material for making  compost?

It’s true–leaves are an excellent organic material for making compost for a couple of reasons:

  1. Since trees usually have extensive root systems, leaves end up being the recipient of all those nutrients gathered from the soil.
  2. Leaves are highly fibrous improving the aeration and composition of the soil.

Now, I can hear you saying, “I tried to compost my leaves, but it  didn’t work.”  Probably most people have had some negative experience trying to compost leaves.  Actually, leaves can take several years to break down if you fail to compost them properly.  Don’t worry, learning how to compost leaves is not nearly as difficult as you may think. We are going to show you the easy way to compost leaves.

The first question many people ask is “What kind of leaves work best for composting?”  Just about any typical leaf works great.   Here are some of the most common leaf types:

  • White Ash
  • American Beech
  • Balsam Fir
  • Eastern Hemlock
  • Red Maple
  • Sugar Maple
  • White Oak

We should mention that if oak or beech leaves are used exclusively the resulting compost will be a bit more acidic making it quite suitable for plants such as rhododendrons and blueberries.  You  can tone down the acidity by adding some limestone to the leaves as you fill your compost bin or compost pile.

There are two important things that you must do when you compost leaves to ensure that your leaves will compost properly.  The first thing is to make sure your leaves are shredded when adding them to your composter, compost tumbler or compost pile.

Shredding your leaves is quite easy.  You can mow over them several times before you rake them up.  Also, there are a number of  manufacturers who make shredder / chippers that work great for  leaves.  I even had a gasoline powered blower that had a vacuum attachment for picking up leaves, which left the leaves in a nice shredded state.

The second important thing you must do when you compost leaves is to make sure that you add nitrogen to your compost bin or compost pile.   Leaves contain very little nitrogen.  It is this lack of nitrogen that causes the leaves to decay slowly.  Adding nitrogen to your compost bin or compost pile will help to speed up the decomposition process of the leaves.   Adding nitrogen can be as simple as adding grass clippings with the leaves as you fill your compost tumbler or compost bin.

Other sources of nitrogen include manure, dried blood, alfalfa  meal, and bone meal.  If you are using manure, use 1 part manure to five parts leaves.  If you are using a natural source of nitrogen such as dried blood, use two cups per wheelbarrow load of leaves.

Once you have shredded your leaves and found an additional nitrogen source, you simply add your leaves and nitrogen source to your compost tumbler, compost bin or compost pile and keep the leaves moist but not wet and allow nature to do its thing.  You will of course want to keep your leaves turned on a fairly regular basis if you are using a compost bin or compost pile.

If you want to make the composting process even quicker and easier, a compost  tumbler works the best.  With a compost tumbler you are able to easily turn your compost on a weekly basis keeping the organic material well-mixed thereby speeding up the decomposition process.  With a compost  tumbler you can have compost in as little as 3 or 4 weeks.

A great compost tumbler for composting leaves is the Tumbleweed Compost Tumbler.

Tumbleweed Compost Tumbler
Tumbleweed Compost Tumbler

If you are looking for a very simplistic compost bin to use to compost your leaves, the Wishing Well Compost Bin fits the bill just fine.

Large Capacity Round Compost Bin
Large Capacity Round Compost Bin

Hopefully, at this point you will look on those falling leaves a little more favorably.  Taking some time to compost leaves in the fall will result in great compost to use in your garden in the spring.  So go outside, rake some leaves and make some compost!

Both of the composters mentioned above are available in our Store and they include FREE SHIPPING.

For additional information on composting you may want to read  “What Can You Compost?” You can also check out our website for more information on composting and a great selection of composting products.  Happy raking and composting!


10 thoughts on “How to Compost Leaves the Easy Way”

  1. Question – We live in the woods so we have tons of leaves in the fall. I mulch them with a tractor-mower, sweep them and deposit them in a huge pile. In the spring I rototill it and spray with water, perhaps once a month. And within two months the pile is compost. But it never gets warm. It’s broken down almost entirely by worms that come out of the soil, so I wind up with a 4-foot high pile of worm-castings.

    Since the source is mostly brown leaves, there probably isn’t much nitrogen.

    Is it ok to use this stuff in the garden and lawn?

    1. Hi! It sounds like you have got a great system for composting your leaves. If you do end up with a huge pile of worm castings by spring, they would be wonderful to add to your garden and lawn. Worm castings are some of the best compost a gardener could want! Way to make great use of those leaves! If you really did want to add some nitrogen to your leaf pile you could use grass clippings or a natural source of nitrogen such as blood meal. Hope this helps!

  2. I have built a compost system that has three compartments about three cubic feet each. I have raked and shredded leaves and now two of my compartments are filled. I have some 46% nitrogen urea pebbles, can I sprinkle some of this over these piles to help speed the process or can I add a little at a time when I turn each one into the next bin in the next few weeks? How much do you think I should use if I can use it?

    1. Hi! Thanks for your comment. I would sprinkle a cup or two over the piles. This should help speed the composting process a bit.

      Good luck and happy composting!

    1. Thanks for your comment. Oak leaves tend to be rather acidic, so that is probably why someone told you they do not make good compost. You can tone down the acidity of the leaves by adding some limestone as you add leaves to your compost pile or compost bin.

      Good luck and happy composting!

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