Can You Put Wet Leaves in a Compost Bin?

Composting is an excellent way to take yard waste and turn it into something useful. Leaves, in particular, make an excellent composting option due to their accessibility. It’s widely known that you can always add dry leaves to a compost bin, but what about wet ones? 

You can put wet leaves in a compost bin. However, using wet leaves can make the composting process more difficult since wet leaves tend to become matted and block proper airflow in your compost pile. It’s best to allow them to dry first and then shred them before adding them to your compost bin.

In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss the pros and cons of using leaves in compost, which leaves to use, which ones you should avoid, and a few common questions about leaf composting. So, if you want to learn more about using leaves in your compost, be sure to keep reading. 

The Pros and Cons of Using Leaves in Compost

It’s essential to understand some of the benefits and drawbacks of this composting option. Leaves are widely used in most garden composts, but why is that? What pros and cons come with this sort of composting?

The pros of using leaves in a compost bin include:

  • Leaves are free. This compost ingredient can be acquired easily and is generally accessible as most people have a tree or two in their yard. However, if you don’t, there’s a good chance you could acquire some from family or a neighbor. 
  • Leaves increase carbon levels in your compost. If your compost pile is low on carbon (browns), using dead leaves is a great way to increase these levels and make a more nutrient-dense soil. 
  • Leaves add nutrients. Leaves are packed with nutrients and essential minerals for your compost. So adding leaves leftover from your yard is a great way to recycle these materials and add a good blend of nutrients to your compost bin. 

As you can see, the benefits are pretty great and the added nutrients that leaves provide are quite necessary for healthy soil. However, there are still some minor cons when using leaves.

The cons of using leaves in a compost bin include:

  • The leaf decomposition process can take over a year. Unfortunately, leaves take a long time to break down and turn into soil. However, this process can be sped up by shredding the leaves before introducing them to your compost bin. 
  • Leaves can add too much carbon (brown) to your compost nutrient levels. If you aren’t careful, it can be easy to offset your composted nutrient balance. Adding too many things like leaves can make the pile too rich in carbon and lacking in other necessary nutrients. 
  • Unshredded leaves can easily become “matted.” Becoming matted means that leaves will stick together when they become wet. This causes a barrier that makes airflow throughout the compost difficult. Poor airflow will significantly hinder your composting progress. 

When using leaves in your compost bin, it’s essential to monitor the amounts you’re adding. It’s also important that you shred them if you can; this will prevent matting and significantly speed up their breakdown process. It’s also important to note that using dry leaves to make fertilizer is best.

Which Leaves Make the Best Compost

As with all composting ingredients, some leaves make better compostables than others. Before you start composting random leaves, it’s essential to identify which trees and plants they come from. So, let’s talk about which leaves make the best compost. 

The best leaf types for composting include:

  • Maple
  • Ash
  • Willow
  • Birch
  • Cherry
  • Lime

Additionally, most fruit tree leaves are acceptable to use in compost, and they happen to be a popular option as many homes have one or two in their yard. Ultimately, many different leaves can be composted easily. However, there are also leaves that are bad for composting, which I’ll cover in the next section.

Leave You Should Avoid Composting

Unfortunately, not all leaves are created equally, and there are several types of leaves you should avoid placing in your compost bin. 

Leaves you should never use in your compost include:

  • Oak
  • Beech
  • Holly
  • Black walnut
  • Eucalyptus

These plants have a difficult time breaking down, and a few of them even contain herbicides that will prevent the growth of plants. Unfortunately, this means that when you go to use your new compost, plants will have difficulty growing in the toxic compost. So, if you aren’t sure about a leaf, it’s best to google it and double-check before adding it to your bin. 

How To Add Leaves to Your Compost

If you’ve composted before, you probably know how to add leaves. However, I still want to go over some tips so that you get the best compost possible. 

Follow these steps to add leaves to your compost bin:

  1. Shred up the leaves. You can do this with a lawn mower or by cutting them yourself. This step is not completely necessary, but it can certainly help speed the composting process along. 
  2. Mix the leaves throughout the compost bin. This will prevent them from sticking together and give them room to decompose more quickly. 
  3. Add water to your compost after putting in leaves. Compost bins should always be moist, and adding a little water can help offset the dryness of the leaves. 

Ultimately, you can place the leaves in your bin however you wish. Leaves don’t need to be put in any special way, and you can even store them in your compost bin whole if you really want to. It all comes down to how quickly you need your compost to turn into fertile soil. 

How Long Does It Take Leaves To Turn Into Compost?

Another essential thing to know is how long it’ll take for all of your ingredients to turn into compost. Each item, like grass, food scraps, and leaves, will take a different amount of time to completely compost. So let’s go over how long it takes for leaves to decompose and turn into usable compost. 

It takes about one year for leaves to turn into compost. However, depending on the size and type of leaves, the time will vary. Leaves that have been shredded tend to compost more quickly, while larger leaves take much longer to decompose. The compost bin you use can also affect the process. 

Generally, you should plan on about a year for your compost to become usable after adding leaf matter into the bin. This gives the organic matter enough time to break down and become usable for your plants. 

Are Rotting Leaves Good for Compost?

It’s pretty common to come across rotting leaves when raking fallen ones from the lawn. So you may be wondering if rotten leaves are okay to add to your compost bin. 

Rotting leaves are good for compost. This is because leaves must decompose in order to become compost. So adding leaves that have already started the process is fine, so long as you have appropriately balanced your greens (nitrogen) and browns (carbon) in your bin. 

So yes, rotting leaves are a great addition to your compost, and you shouldn’t hesitate to add them if you could use more carbon in your compost bin. 


Ultimately, you can add wet leaves to your compost bin, as it won’t hurt the compost. Leaves in general are an excellent addition to compost (whether they’re wet or dry), especially if they’re cut up into smaller pieces. 

However, the main drawback to adding any sort of wet leaves is that they can stick together, preventing proper airflow, and therefore, making them harder to break down. However, most gardeners recommend waiting until leaves are dry before adding them.

Be sure to check out my other article on how to make fertilizer with dry leaves: How to Make Fertilizer With Dry Leaves (Complete Guide)

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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