Tidying up your yard in fall can easily turn into a day-long job. After all that hard work, put your leaves to good use.

Compost is the best way to do that. Its many benefits make your lengthy leaf cleanup well worth it.

Best of all, compost is simple to make! Though, it does take time. Learn how to compost leaves below.

Benefits of Leaf Compost and Leaf Mulch–And How to Compost Leaves Quickly

There are two ways to compost leaves. Leaf compost is a mix of leaves and organic materials, like grass clippings or food waste. Leaf mulch (also called leaf mold) is just leaves and water.

If you want mulch to help retain soil moisture, make leaf mold. If you want more plant nutrients and pest and disease control, compost is the way to go.

How to Compost Dry Leaves in a Bin or Pile

To start, shred the leaves with a mower, catch ‘em in your mower bag, then:

  1. Add leaves to a compost bin, or pile them up in a corner of your yard.
  2. Top the leaves with a nitrogen-rich item, like cottonseed meal, grass clippings, food waste, or manure.
  3. Build the pile up until it’s three feet tall and wide. Alternate between leaves and a nitrogen product. A good rule of thumb is to use four parts leaves per one-part nitrogen.
  4. Turn the compost once a month. But, in winter, the compost process often stops because of the cold temperatures. So, only turn your compost in winter if it’s insulated.
  5. When you turn, check for moisture. If you spot dry patches, add water. If your compost smells rotten or looks soggy, dry it out by adding ingredients like leaves, straw or sawdust.
  6. Continue turning and moisture-monitoring your compost until it’s ready. Finished compost is dark in color, dry and crumbly in texture, and smells earthy. If you continually turn the pile, you can have compost in a couple of months. But if you don’t turn it in winter, it can take up to a year.

Making Leaf Mold in Garbage Bags

Remember, leaf mold is different from compost because it doesn’t add as many nutrients to the soil or fight pests and disease as well. But, it’s great for mulching and controlling weeds.

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Shred leaves with a lawn mower, and place in a large garbage bag.
  2. Water the leaves until they’re damp but not soaked.
  3. Tightly seal the bag, and cut a few slits for air flow.
  4. Shake the bag every few weeks to turn the pile.
  5. Add water to the bag as the leaves dry, which is usually every four-to-eight weeks.
  6. The leaf mold is ready when the leaves have become a brown or black crumbly material, which usually takes about six months. So, this leaf mulch will be ready to use in spring!

How to long does it take to compost leaves?

It can take leaves anywhere from a couple months to a year to become compost. So, patience is a must.

Or get rid of them faster by simply running your lawn mower over the leaves. The grass will soak up all the leaves’ nutrients!

How to Compost Leaves Quickly

If you want to create a traditional compost, use these tips to speed up the process:

  1. Turn the pile every week or two instead of monthly.
  2. Be sure to use the watering tips above. A pile too dry or too damp will take more time.
  3. Keep the leaf mold bag sealed tightly, or cover the compost bin or pile with plastic to help retain moisture.

Great gardening tips don’t stop here. Contact your local arborist to learn more!

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