How to Compost Leaves Quickly

Composting leaves properly can provide a plentiful source of organic matter that improves soil structure and loosens compacted ground, but as they are carbon rich they require ample nitrogen in order to be broken down properly.

Compost your leaf waste either in an official compost bin, or simply pile the material together, according to these steps for success. Your pile should heat up and start breaking down quickly, so follow these guidelines.


Composting transforms organic materials into a nutrient-rich fertilizer that provides essential nourishment to soil health and productivity. Applying leaf compost directly to garden beds and flowerbeds ensures an ample supply of natural nutrients, keeping soil healthy and productive; additionally, large quantities can help rid gardens of unwanted weeds.

Microorganisms responsible for decomposing leaves and other organic matter require nitrogen for proper functioning, limiting how quickly leaves will compost without added materials such as grass clippings or vegetable scraps with high nitrogen levels. When mixed together they make for more effective compost piles.

Shredding the leaves prior to adding them to a compost pile increases surface area available to microorganisms for digestion, hastening decomposition. A rotary mower makes this task even simpler by simultaneously shredding leaves and grass clippings to enhance quality of leafmould product (leafmould).

Certain kinds of leaves are more difficult to decompose than others; conifer tree leaves, for instance, typically take two to three years before disintegrating and producing leafmould. To speed up this process and create leafmould more quickly, add evergreen shredded leaves as well as hardy plants like holly, aucuba and cherry laurel into an individual compost heap – this will produce fast-breaking acidic mulch which is great for use around ericaceous shrubs such as rhododendrons and azaleas.

To create leafmould, first prepare a bin by layering twigs at the bottom for air circulation and placing it away from tree roots or woody stems that might leach unwanted substances into the pile. Layer twigs and leaves alternately; aim for 12-inch layers. Keep moisture levels balanced by adding water as necessary – excess moisture could overheat and kill off microbes! Finally, cover it all with heavy polythene sheets in order to conserve heat and moisture levels in your heap.


Autumn is an idyllic season, when deciduous trees transform to vibrant hues of flame and gold. But for gardeners, autumn also marks weeks of leaf-raking to clear beds, borders, drives, gutters and the lawn from organic debris that blankets it all. However, with some effort and care these leaves can be composted into rich organic mulches which help the grass grow greener!

To accelerate decomposition, it is important to shred leaves before adding them to a compost pile. This can easily be accomplished by lowering your mower blade and running over them until they break apart into small confetti-sized pieces. In order to achieve faster composting results, mixing these materials with other nitrogen-rich substances such as manure, plant prunings or kitchen scraps – generally speaking 30 parts brown materials such as leaves twigs sticks etc are needed per 1 part green materials such as grass clippings manure vegetable scraps).

Microorganisms that break down leaves and other compost ingredients rely on both carbon and nitrogen to effectively digest their substrate, and leaves provide both food and nitrogen for these organisms to accelerate this process. For best results, water your leaf compost bin every time new leaves are added to ensure an even distribution of moisture throughout its pile and that any fungi processing these leaves remain happy and content.

Consider placing your leaf compost bin in an area that receives only partial sunlight, as direct sun can dry out the pile and hinder its decomposition process. Furthermore, make sure that at least twice per week you turn your pile so all ingredients can mix evenly and be properly mixed and oxygenated.


Leaves-decomposing microbes living in soil require ample surface area for their work. Raking leaves together may not generate enough heat to eliminate weeds and disease-causing pathogens fast, and won’t breakdown quickly enough. By shredding them instead, shredding increases surface area which speeds decomposition considerably.

Compost requires the appropriate ratio of brown materials (carbon) and green materials (nitrogen). Whole or shredded leaves contain high amounts of carbon; an ideal home compost pile would contain one part green materials per four parts brown materials; for instance, add one 5-gallon bucket of chicken manure or kitchen scraps per two buckets of shredded leaves added.

As with most DIY projects, when making your own leaf compost pile it is ideal to use a bin that holds at least 3 cubic feet of material. A simple bin can be built using 10-13 foot lengths of hardware cloth bent into a cylinder shape by twisting each end. Be sure to place it away from trees or shrubs so as to maintain nutrients within your compost and prevent it from attracting pests!

Before adding your shredded leaves, start by layering an inch of dirt or another nitrogen-rich green material and moistening it thoroughly with water. Tuck shredded leaves evenly into an even layer into your pile. Be sure to turn or mix over every two weeks in order to maintain optimal moisture, temperature and oxygen levels and facilitate quick decomposition. It’s also important to use only leaves from trees like Ash cherry Elm Linden Maple Poplar Willow which are low lignin content but high calcium and nitrogen concentration than Beech Oak Holly Sweet Chestnut leaves which have more lignin but less calcium/Nexium concentrations compared with these types.


Leaves pile up as fall arrives, covering gardens, blocking driveways and filling gutters, but these rich organic mulches and soil improvers don’t belong in the trash can; rather they should be composted quickly using these simple rules for doing it effectively.

Starting off right means using either a shredder to reduce the effort involved with raking leaves, or a lawnmower equipped with a bag attachment – both will make collection and transport much simpler – you should have enough room for at least several bags in your leaf bin.

Leaves, known as browns in compost piles, must be mixed with nitrogen-rich “greens,” such as grass clippings and plant prunings; kitchen waste also makes an excellent green source. Regular turning should ensure an even mix and allow oxygen into the center of the pile.

Pile size matters too: at least three feet cubed should provide enough heat and oxygen for fungi and bacteria that break down leaves to do their work. Iowa State University advises adding one cup of commercial nitrogen fertilizer to accelerate decomposition.

Leaves typically take an inordinately long time to break down, taking years for oak and beech leaves to turn into leaf mold, with birch and sorbus taking around 12 months. To speed this process up, try using commercial products like Vitax Compost Maker: it creates a slurry that draws in water and oxygen while simultaneously breaking down leaves into compost.

Building a dedicated leaf bin is the easiest way to store leaves for disposal in autumn – keeping them together while protecting them from wind and rain. A 10-13 foot piece of galvanized welded wire fencing makes an inexpensive yet effective storage solution; simply assemble and set up! Each autumn will now have the ideal place for its leaves!

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