{Food & Gardening} Fall Composting Tips

Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower ~ Albert Camus

We compost year round and like gardening composting has a seasonal rhythm.  Fall is the best time to optimize your compost results.  Building a better soil is the single most important thing you can do for your garden each year.

Successful composting is the balance between carbon and nitrogen.  The proper ratio is 2/3 carbon to 1/3 nitrogen.   For example, carbon matter would be leaves, straw, and dry garden waste, and nitrogen would be kitchen scraps, grass and manure.


Fall Leaves on Mass

Fall Leaves

Fall is a great time to gather leaves for composting.  Leaves are rich in carbon. Deciduous leaves are best. You should not use evergreen, conifers, holly, laurel, etc.  Good carbon matter is harder to find in the winter so fall is a great time to stock up.  Bag leaves up and keep them to be added to the compost pile during the winter and in the early spring.

Garden Waste

Keep annuals from tired fall gardening crops. Chop up larger stems from tomatoes and broccoli to help speed up the compost process.  Don’t compost plants that are diseased.  Do not compost a plant’s root mass.  I also would not recommend composting plants that are seeding, or weeds you don’t want in your garden.  One year I composted pumpkins that had most, but not all, of their seeds removed. I had pumpkin sprouts in my compost for months.


Push Mower


Grass clippings are nitrogen rich compost activators.  Add grass in thin layers to prevent matting.  Be sure to add twice the volume of carbon materials to balance the carbon-nitrogen ratio.  Remember to consider the chemicals and pesticides that have been sprayed on lawns before using grass in your vegetable gardening compost.

Kitchen Waste

Kitchen food waste adds the wet moisture and micro-organisms needed to break down the compost. Place an air tight container in your kitchen for food waste.  It is too hard to run out to the compost bin every time you create kitchen waste.  I use a stainless steel canister with a lid in my kitchen. Vegetables, fruit peelings, tea leaves and coffee grounds are my favorite food waste.  Egg shells need to be crushed before composting.  A “no cooked foods” rule is a good guideline, especially for beginners.  Vegetables cooked with butter or chicken broth shouldn’t be composted until you are experienced.  Certain foods need high heat to safely break down, and some cooked foods attracted animals and pests.

Leaf Composting

leaf compost

Are you using leaves for composting but still have too many fall leaves? Try Leaf Composting. It generally takes longer (4-6 months) to break down. Leaf compost is low in nutrients so you can’t use it as a traditional fertilizer, but can be used as an organic soil amendment and soil conditioner. Think of those leaves as free nutrients for your trees, shrubs, and plants.  Leaf composting is great for those that are interested in only composting their yard waste.


This fall bulk up your compost and enjoy some free natural fertilizer this spring.  If you’ve never composted before, fall is a great time to get started!

Happy Gardening,


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  1. I am looking a way to save our money and also take the ecosmart method to get rid of our restaurant’s compost. Any recommendations for commercial composters grand rapids mi?

  2. I find leaves take a long time to compost, and in particular, oak leaves take forever! So I bag those and let my city composting program do the work on that one (we have curbside pickup for yard waste in spring and fall).

    Sometimes the volunteer plants that grow out of compost can be surprising and delightful. My nephew brought a kuri squash home to his mom–it had grown in the compost bin behind his girlfriend’s apartment!

    • Oh I wish our city had a composting service! How nice. Leaf composting does take more time but it’s great for trees, scrubs, and other things that annually need nutrients added to the soil. Love the volunteer kuri suqash. Our community garden had the best crop of volunteer pumpkins a few years ago. :) Nature will take care of itself.