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How to Compost Autumn Leaves

Composting autumn leaves requires a little knowledge of chemistry and a little work. Recycling the leaves into new soil is a great way to keep leaves out of the landfill, or leaf ash out of the air.


  • Step 1: Wait until the leaves have turned brown Wait until the leaves have started to turn brown before you rake them up. If you have a lawn mower or a leaf shredder, shred the leaves before raking them. Both of these techniques help the leaves to compost more quickly.
  • Step 2: Place the leaves in a bag Place the leaves in a burlap bag and set it near the compost pile.
  • Step 3: Add handfuls of leaves to the compost pile Add a few handfuls of leaves from the bag to the compost pile at a time. If you add too many at once, they mat together and slow down the composting process.
  • Step 4: Maintain a chemical balance Maintain a balance between carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials in the compost pile. Brown leaves are rich in carbon. Kitchen scraps (not meat), fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, and grass clippings are rich in nitrogen. The nutrient-rich compost pile should consist of two-thirds carbon-rich materials and one-third nitrogen-rich materials.
  • TIP: As nitrogen-rich materials are added to the compost pile, toss a few leaves on top.
  • Step 5: Compost leaves only Build a 4-foot diameter by 3-foot high leaf-only compost pile if you have too many leaves to put in the main compost pile. Place a layer of soil between each foot of leaves. Keep the pile damp, but covered so that it does not become waterlogged. Leaf compost is best used as organic soil amendment and conditioner rather than as nutrient-rich compost.
  • FACT: In fall, cork-like layers of cells between the leaves and the stems in deciduous trees block the production of the green chlorophyll, making the leaves turn yellow or red.

You Will Need

  • Autumn leaves
  • Rake
  • Lawn mower
  • Bag
  • Compost pile
  • Chemical balance

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