How to Make a Compost Pile With Leaves


Come fall, many yards are covered in a crunchy blanket of fallen leaves. These leaves aren't a nuisance if you plan to make compost with them. Decomposed leaves are rich in nutrients that benefit your garden plants once the compost is tilled into the garden. Leaves are a free resource to make this compost so you don't have to purchase it from the garden center. Composting the leaves also saves you money on waste pick-up, since you won't be setting bag upon bag of dead leaves on the curb for the garbage truck to deal with.

Step 1

Pile the leaves in an area that is away from buildings, but close enough to a water source to make care of the pile simple. Make the pile about three- to five-feet square in surface size and stack it no more than four feet high.

Step 2

Place a one-inch layer of garden soil on top of the leaves. Alternately, use compost left over from the garden. Soil or compost introduces the microbes into the leaf pile that are necessary for the composting process.

Step 3

Sprinkle nitrogen-rich fertilizer on top of the pile. Use a half cup of fertilizer for a three-foot square pile or use one cup for a five-foot square pile of leaves. Nitrogen is necessary for the pile to heat up and compost correctly.

Step 4

Water the pile with a garden hose until it is as moist as a well-wrung sponge. Mix the pile together with a garden fork then check the moisture again. Add more water as necessary to maintain the moisture in it.

Step 5

Turn the pile of leaves once every two to four weeks with the garden fork. Move the outside of the pile to the inside so that all the leaves get access to hot composting temperatures inside. The compost is ready to use when all the leaves have broken down and the remaining compost resembles a dark brown, crumbly soil.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not place dairy, grease or meat in the compost pile, as it will smell bad and attract animals.

Things You'll Need

  • Leaves
  • Soil
  • Nitrogen fertilizer
  • Garden fork


  • Texas A&M Extension: Don't Bag It Leaf Management Plan
Keywords: composting leaves, leaf compost pile, soil amendments

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Dollar Stretcher." Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.