Can You Compost Dead Leaves?

There are many things that can go in your compost bin. It’s not just for leftovers and other organic waste that can’t be thrown away any other way. Even if something doesn’t seem like it would break down easily, if it was alive at one point and is made of plant materials, you can probably compost it.

Although, there are some things that will keep your compost from working well. If you want to get the most out of your compost, you should avoid putting certain things in it.

If you’ve found yourself wondering “are dead leaves compostable?”, “how do I do it?” and “how long will they take to compost?”: you’ve come to the right place.

Can you put dead leaves in the compost?

Yes, dead leaves are compostable. Adding dead leaves to your compost pile will contribute to creating a nutrient-rich fertiliser that you can use in your garden.

Can you put them in the waste bin?

If you don’t have a compost bin, you can put organic materials in the appropriate roadside collection bin but biodegradable materials like dead leaves are better off being in a compost pile.

Disposing of organic or compostable waste like organic materials in landfill can contribute to the release of potent greenhouse gases like methane, which has around 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide.

Methane emissions are significantly reduced by composting suitable food waste and organic materials.

How to compost dead leaves

You should shred the leaves with a lawn mower or shredder before composting them to speed up decomposition.

As a brown material, you should be adding dead leaves and other brown carbon-rich materials then a layer of green to cover it. Remember to use a garden fork or a stick to poke holes in your compost every couple of weeks to mix the pile up.

How long will dead leaves take to compost?

It takes at least 12 months and up to two years for dead leaves to completely decompose in a compost. Because they take a while to break down, try not to add too many to your compost at the same time.

Dead leaves discarded on the ground or buried in the ground will take longer to decompose.

Are dead leaves a green or brown material?

Dead leaves should be considered a brown material when composting.

Materials that are brown, like dead leaves, are often more dry solid and woody; and are a source of carbon (one of the four essential ingredients) for your compost. Harder brown materials create air pockets that provide oxygen for the microorganisms breaking the compost pile down.

Composts rely on brown materials like dead leaves to add bulk and structure to the pile.

Will composting them attract pests?

No. Dead leaves will not attract pests.

Composting considerations

When composting dead leaves, you should store piles of leaves if you have too much to compost right away so that they can begin rotting whilst you wait to put them on your pile.

Omar Agor-Wood
Omar Agor-Wood

Omar is a digital marketer by day for one of the UK's largest environmental consultancy companies, and is writing like the world depends on it for Pick Ethical at night. He has a passion for hiking, bouldering, and making a fuss of his dog.

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