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Composting leaves fast

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When fall hits, you typically end up with a lot of leaves at once!

Even if you're a successful composter, it can be too much to fit into a single compost bin. Often, it's even too much for multiple compost bins!

One of the keys to composting leaves fast is to shred them into smaller pieces. If you own a leaf shredder, you've probably noticed that you can fit 4 or 5 times as many leaves in a bag after you shred them. If you're composting the leaves, shredding them helps speed up the process significantly.

Breaking them into tiny pieces increases the surface area of the leaves, allowing them to break down a lot faster.

Another important key to remember when you are trying to compost leaves is that they are very carbon rich and very dry. So as a result, you'll want to make sure you get them very wet when you are adding them to your compost bin or compost pile, and also make sure that you have a large amount of nitrogen rich materials to balance out your pile so that it will break down successfully.

One good and often free source of nitrogen rich materials is coffee grounds. You can typically get large amounts of them free from most coffee shops, who are happy to give them away so that they don't have to put them in the dumpster. 

If you are collecting vegetable scraps from your kitchen, these are also nitrogen rich and will help balance the carbon rich leaves.

Freshly cut grass is also nitrogen rich, although it is often hard to come by at the end of the season when the leaves are falling because the lawn has stopped growing. Be careful though, because dry, brown grass has already lost its nitrogen and is now carbon rich. So if you add brown grass to your brown leaves, you won't be helping.

There's also a way to cheat when you're trying to break down your leaves faster. Fertilizer is rich in nitrogen! It seems like a waste to add expensive fertilizer to a bag of leaves to make compost, but if breaking down your leaves faster is your main goal, it will work. 

If you have any old bags of cheap dry dog food sitting around, you can use that as a nitrogen source too. Be careful though. If you leave old dog food out and don't mix it well with the leaves and wet it, it will sit there dry and attract rodents and other pests. This is a good solution for a person who is an active composter.

Want to see if your compost is heating up and breaking down quickly? We recommend a compost thermometer.