How to Reduce Composting Time for Leaves


Composting leaves is an effective way to dispose of leaf litter and improve the quality of your garden's soil. To speed up the composting process a method called hot composting can be used. This process creates a balance of air, moisture and energy for the microorganisms, which results in a heating up of the compost pile. This heating phase quickens the decomposition of the leaves and kills any weed seeds that may be lurking in the leaves or other materials. Hot composting can be done in a composting bin, but a simple pile in your yard will also suffice.

Step 1

Make a pile of leaves in a sunny area. The pile should measure at least 3 feet wide, by 3 feet deep, by 3 feet high, but it can be as large as 5 feet wide, by 5 feet deep, by 3 feet high.

Step 2

Add energy materials and bulking agents to the pile of leaves. Wood chips or sawdust make good bulking agents and grass clippings or used coffee grounds are excellent energy materials.

Step 3

Mix the leaves, bulking agents and energy materials thoroughly with a pitchfork.

Step 4

Check the moisture level of the mixture. Grab a handful of the mixture and squeeze it tightly. If only a few drops of water drip out of the mixture, the moisture level is acceptable. If no moisture releases, mist the pile with a garden hose and mix again. If the mixture is too wet, add more dry leaves.

Step 5

Take the internal temperature of the pile once a week for the next four weeks. If the internal temperature is below 100 F it is time to turn the pile. The average internal temperature of a hot compost pile is 120 F to 150 F.

Step 6

Turn the pile with a pitchfork. When the temperature drops, transfer the middle leaf material to the outside of the pile and the outer leaves to the middle.

Step 7

Check the moisture level of the pile after each turning. Adjust the moisture level, as needed, with either more water or dry materials.

Step 8

Cure the pile four to eight weeks after the initial four-week hot phase. The pile of leaves is fully cured when the leaves no longer heat up after turning and the leaf mixture is crumbly and dark.

Tips and Warnings

  • Cover the leaf pile with a waterproof tarp during periods of rain.

Things You'll Need

  • Pitchfork
  • Bulking material
  • Energy material
  • Thermometer
  • Nitrogen fertilizer (optional)
  • Waterproof tarp


  • Washington State University: Backyard Composting
  • Washington State University: Backyard Composting: Composting Basics
  • Texas A & M University: Compost Questions and Answers

Who Can Help

  • Virginia State University Cooperative Extension: Using Compost in Your Landscape
Keywords: hot composting, composting leaves, make organic compost

About this Author

Sophia Darby is a former professional hairstylist who has spent the last six years writing hair-related articles for both online and print publications. Her work has appeared in Celebrity Hairstyles Magazine, as well as multiple websites.