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How to Compost Leaves in Bags

By Jenny Harrington ; Updated September 21, 2017

Don't think of the dead leaves that fall in your yard come autumn as a nuisance; instead, see them as an inexpensive way to improve your garden beds. Fancy compost bins aren't necessary for composting leaves. Plain black garbage bags make suitable holders for the composting leaves that can be easily moved if needed. Use durable bags made for use in the yard so they don't split open before the compost is done.

Collect enough dead leaves to fill a 40-gallon garbage bag. Fill the bag half full with the dead leaves.

Add ½ tbsp. nitrogen-rich fertilizer or place 2 inches of fresh grass clippings in the bag to supply nitrogen, a requirement for the composting process. Add ½ cup of lime, available at garden centers, to the bag.

Finish filling the bag with leaves, then place an additional ½ tablespoon of fertilizer or 2 inches of leaves on top. Add ½ cup lime.

Pour 1 quart of water into the bag to supply moisture to the composting leaves. Tie the bag shut. Shake it to distribute the moisture and contents evenly.

Set the bag in a sheltered area outside or in a garage for six months. At the end of this period, open the bag and check the composting process. If the leaves look broken down and the substance resembles soil it is ready. Otherwise, allow it to sit for another six months.


Things You Will Need

  • Trash bag
  • Leaves
  • Fertilizer
  • Grass clippings
  • Lime


  • Set the bags in a heated garage or other warm place in winter so the composting process doesn't stop until spring.


  • Composting in garbage bags takes much longer than heap methods, as it doesn't have access to the microbes that speed the composting process in heaps.
  • Avoid composting weed seeds and plants that have been sprayed with herbicides. These may survive the process and damage your garden.

About the Author


Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. 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.