How to Make Compost From Leaves


Turning fallen leaves into a soil amendment solves the problem of disposing of a large amount of leaves and produces healthy compost for use in your garden. Dead leaves produce carbon as they break down in a compost pile. A healthy compost pile needs both carbon and nitrogen to work properly, so green matter is also needed to supply the nitrogen. Composting requires nothing more than space and a little time, though you may construct or purchase a compost bin if desired.

Step 1

Choose a level 3- to 5-foot square area for your compost heap. Avoid areas that collect water during rain or during snow melt as this will slow down the composting process.

Step 2

Spread a 5-inch layer of dead, dried leaves over the composting area. Place a 3-inch layer of green leaves, grass clippings or other green plant material on top.

Step 3

Add a 1-inch layer of mature compost, garden soil or a commercial compost starter. This introduces the micro-organisms necessary for the composting process.

Step 4

Use a pitch fork to mix the layers. Water the pile until it is as damp as a wrung out sponge.

Step 5

Continue adding additional layers until the pile is approximately 3 feet high. Mix in each new layer with the previous layers.

Step 6

Turn the pile monthly using the pitch fork and compost will be ready for use in eight to 12 months. Turn it one to times weekly and compost will be ready in two to six months. Compost will have no recognizable plant materials in it, will crumble easily in your hand and will be a rich brown color when ready.

Tips and Warnings

  • If the compost pile isn't heating up, it is either too dry, too wet or doesn't have enough nitrogen or carbon in it. Do not compost meat, dairy or grease in the pile. This attracts pests and causes a foul odor. Never compost diseased plants or weed seeds. The diseases or seeds may survive the composting process.

Things You'll Need

  • Yard waste
  • Pitch fork
  • Garden soil
  • Mature compost
  • Compost starter


  • Ohio State University Extension
Keywords: composting leaves, making compost, soil amendment

About this Author

Jenny Harrington is a freelance writer of more than five years' experience. Her work has appeared in "Dollar Stretcher" and various blogs. Previously, she owned her own business for four years, selling handmade items online, wholesale and via the crafts fair circuit. Her specialties are small business, crafting, decorating and gardening.