Using Leaves for Compost


Date: October 25th, 2012

Did you know that one large shade tree produces enough leaf material to cover $50 worth of plant food and humus? Leaves of most trees contain TWICE as many minerals as manure!


What is Compost?

Compost - or humus - is decomposed or well-rotted organic material, such as vegetable waste, leaves, grass clippings, and livestock manure. This crumbly, soil-like material improves soil texture by increasing the drainage of heavy clay soils and the water and nutrient retention of light, sandy soils.

In this article, we will be focusing on composting with leaves. Why leaves? Read on!


Using Leaves for Composting

While not everyone has an available source of livestock manure, most everyone has some type of access to leaves. Plus, leaves are an excellent addition to the pile!

Most trees have deep roots that absorb minerals buried far down in the soil. The majority of these minerals go directly to the leaves making them a perfect source of large amounts of fibrous organic matter.


Getting Started

So, what do you need? The list of tools and materials isn't long:

Compost Container
• Leaves
• Nitrogen (Dried Blood, Cottonseed Meal, Bone Meal, Agrinite or manure will work. For a more extensive list, read on)
• Shredder/Lawn Mower 


A compost pile can be made in almost any size or shape but most people elect to go with a rectangular-shaped pile because it is easier to handle. CountryMax has several different compost containers to choose from – pick the one that best suits your needs and space requirements. For more information on compost piles, click here.



The most common problem that people have with leaf compost piles is that the leaves take a long time to break down. Fear not! There are 3 things you can do to speed up the process:

1. Grind or shred your leaves. Leaves tend to mat into a tight mass that slows down the digestion period. By shredding leaves, you can speed up the process. Don't have a shredder? Don't worry – use a lawn mower with a bagger to shred the pile. If you don't have a bagger, direct the leaves in one area.

.Compost Accelerator

2. Add extra nitrogen to the leaf compost. Manure is the nest nitrogen supplement and a mixture of 5 parts leaves to one part manure will quickly break down. But as referenced before, few gardeners have access to livestock manure. Instead, use nitrogen supplements like dried blood, cottonseed meal, bone meal, or agrinite. Nitrogen provides food for bacteria and speeds up the break-down process. CountryMax also sells compost accelerators: Compost Plus has microorganisms and nitrogen-rich nutrients in rice-sized pellets to help jump start the composting process. Compost Accelerator is an all-natural bacteria formula that can increase the digestion of solid, leafy material.

Other nitrogen-rich products to add to the pile:

  • Nitrogen-rich "greens" from the house: coffee grounds and used filters, eggshells, fruit rinds and cores, tea bags, moldy/stale bread and vegetables.
  • Nitrogen-rich "greens" from the yard: grass clippings, plant trimmings, weeds, and of course, manure.
  • Nitrogen-rich "greeen" from the family pet: used small animal pet bedding, hair and fur, feathers

3. Turn the heap every couple of weeks*. Turning the pile does a couple things: increases oxygen flow that speeds up the breakdown process and mixes the undigested material on the outside of the pile with the digested material on the inside.

*There is great debate about how often you should turn the pile - there is no definitive answer. Weather conditions, humidity, container size, products in the bin, and many other factors go into how often the pile needs to be turned.


If you have any further questions, leave a comment, or visit your local CountryMax store today!

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