How to Compost Leaves in Your Yard

Overview

Leaves in your yard can be beautiful, but can quickly become frustrating as they accumulate. Whether you are already an avid composter or are just starting to think about composting, leaves can be a wonderful addition to your compost pile. Whether they are dried out or still green, both types of leaves can contribute to beautiful compost. Make sure to cut the leaves up very small before adding them to your pile, as this will greatly aid in their quick decomposition into nutrient-rich compost, suitable for lawn and garden alike.

Step 1

Rake all your fallen leaves into a neat pile. If there are a lot of them, rake them into several smaller piles. To gauge appropriate pile size, consider what pile height you feel comfortable running over with your lawnmower.

Step 2

Mulch the leaf piles with your mulching lawnmower. If you do not have a mulching mower, you can rent a leaf shredder from a garden supply center or agricultural equipment rental service. Alternately, you can compost the leaves whole, but they will take much longer to decompose. Chopped leaves in a regularly tended compost pile average anywhere from 6 to 9 months to break down.

Step 3

Add the mulched leaves to your compost pile. If you do not already have a compost pile and would like to start one, mulched leaves are a great way to do it. Alternate layers of carbon-rich (or brown) ingredients like mulched leaves with nitrogen-rich (or green) ingredients like kitchen scraps and grass clippings. Generally speaking, dry things like leaves, newspaper, and cardboard are all "brown" ingredients. Moist things like coffee grounds, discarded plants, and the aforementioned grass clippings are "green" ingredients.

Step 4

Add water to the compost pile. Compost piles need a balance of brown and green ingredients and moisture in order to be successful. However, they must not be too moist. When you can squeeze the contents of the pile into a ball with your hand without wringing out water, the moisture level is right.

Step 5

Cover the compost pile with soil. This will aid in the decomposition process, and will also help deter pests.

Step 6

Add newly mulched leaves from future yard cleanup sessions to the center of the pile. Dig a hole into the center with your shovel, then add the newly mulched leaves. This process can also be used for anything else you wish to add to the compost pile. The center of a compost pile is where it burns the hottest, so materials break down the fastest there.

Step 7

Turn your compost pile about once a week or every two weeks for best results. Add water whenever the ball test results in crumbling balls that do not hold their shape.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never compost meat, fish, or dairy products. These do not break down quickly, and can attract unwanted pests. They can also cause nasty odors to emanate from your compost pile. Any kitchen scraps that come from vegetables or fruit, as well as coffee grounds, tea leaves or bags and eggshells, are good compost constituents.

Things You'll Need

  • Rake
  • Mulching lawn mower
  • Green (nitrogen-rich) materials
  • Soil
  • Shovel

References

  • The Master Gardeners: How to Compost Leaves
  • The Guardian: Join the Rotter's Club
  • University of Saskatchewan GardenLine: Common Sense Gardening and Compost
Keywords: compost yard waste, compost dead leaves, leaf mulch compost

About this Author

Amrita Chuasiriporn is a professional cook, baker, and writer. In addition to cooking and baking for a living, Chuasiriporn has written for several online publications. These include Chef's Blade, CraftyCrafty, and others. Additionally, Chuasiriporn is a regular contributor to online automotive enthusiast publication CarEnvy.ca. Chuasiriporn holds an A.A.S. in culinary arts, as well as a B.A. in Spanish language and literature.