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How to Compost Cottonwood Leaves

By Meg Butler ; Updated September 21, 2017
Too many cottonwood leaves may raise the pH of your soil.
rattlertree image by Igor Zhorov from Fotolia.com

Like most plant material, cottonwood leaves make a suitable addition to any compost pile. However, no matter the amount of cottonwood leaves on your property, the majority of the green material in your compost pile should not consist of cottonwood leaves. These leaves have high amounts of tannins, which can raise the pH of the resulting humus enough to affect the growth of the plants grown in it. To counteract this problem, either add an equal amount of high-pH material to your compost pile or split the leaves up into several different compost piles.

Use a shredder, pruning shears or your lawnmower to cut the cottonwood leaves into small pieces. The smaller the pieces in your compost pile, the faster they decompose.

At the same time you add the cottonwood leaves, add twice that amount of brown material such as hay, dried leaves or bark. This will help to keep the nitrogen/carbon balance of your compost pile optimal for micro-organic decomposition.

Turn your pile to mix its ingredients thoroughly.

Continue to turn and add to your pile as usual until its contents have turned into humus.


Things You Will Need

  • Shredder
  • Pruning shears
  • Lawnmower


  • Your compost pile should be about as moist as a wrung-out sponge. If it feels too dry a day or so after you add the cottonwood leaves, add some moist kitchen waste or a few cups of water (always turn the pile after any additions) a few days at a time until the moisture level is satisfactory.

About the Author


Based in Houston, Texas, Meg Butler is a professional farmer, house flipper and landscaper. When not busy learning about homes and appliances she's sharing that knowledge. Butler began blogging, editing and writing in 2000. Her work has appered in the "Houston Press" and several other publications. She has an A.A. in journalism and a B.A. in history from New York University.