The decomposition rate of an item depends on its material composition and environmental conditions. For example, paper products decompose in landfills for two to six weeks. In contrast, plastic bags can take anywhere from 10-1000 years.

Glass bottles and jars take up to one million years to decompose in a landfill, while aluminum cans take around 80-200 years. Even biodegradable materials like food scraps and yard waste can take several months or even years to fully break down in a landfill.

However, that’s the case for leaves, of course. Leaves only take 6 to 12 months to decompose into the soil. After decomposing, it won’t just sit back; it starts working with leaf compost, improving the soil for growing foods or plants. Dig into and learn more about this.

How Long Does It Take for Leaves to Decompose?

Leaves are an important part of the natural cycle of life, providing nourishment and oxygen for plants and animals alike. But how long does it take to decompose once they’ve fallen to the ground?

The time it takes leaves to decompose varies depending on a few factors. The type of leaf, climate, and whether or not other organic materials cover the leaf all affect how quickly they decompose.

Generally speaking, it takes anywhere from 6 to 12 months for leaves to decompose fully. Leaves break down into small pieces during this process and eventually become soil. The nutrients and minerals in these decomposed leaves help enrich the soil and nourish plants.

In addition to helping improve the soil, leaves can make leaf mold. Leaf mold is a compost made from decomposing leaves and other organic matter. It makes an excellent mulch for gardens and helps retain moisture in the soil.

How Does the Leaf Decompose Work?

Leaf decomposition is a natural process by which dead leaves break down into simpler organic compounds. It’s a key part of the carbon cycle and is essential for healthy soil and ecosystems. The rate at which leaves decompose depends on several factors, including climate, leaf type, and soil conditions.

Leaves begin to decompose when they are exposed to air and moisture. Microorganisms like bacteria and fungi begin to break down the leaves, releasing carbon dioxide and other compounds into the air. As the leaves decompose, they release nutrients and minerals that enrich the soil. Eventually, all that is left of a leaf is a small amount of organic matter.

Are There Any Ways to Make The Decompose Faster?

When it comes to decomposing leaves, the decomposition rate largely depends on environmental factors like temperature and moisture. The decomposition of leaves generally takes several years to complete. But there are a few ways that can make them decompose faster such as:

1. Make a Thick Layer

The first step in the process is to spread the dry leaves out in a 1- to 2-inch-thick layer. Then, mow over them with a lawn mower to shred the leaves. Shredded leaves should be gathered in lawn mower bags or raked into piles after shredding. Smaller pieces of leaves break down more quickly, so it’s important to make sure they are properly shredded before moving on to the next step.

2. Place the Leaves on the Shade

Put the pile of leaves in an area of your yard that is partially shaded and out of the way. This will help keep the pile from drying out too quickly and will also help prevent it from becoming an eyesore. The pile should be at least 3 feet square and about 3 feet tall to retain enough moisture to break down properly.

Alternatively, you can place the leaves in a compost bin of this size. This will help contain any odors that may arise during decomposition and make it easier to turn the pile when necessary.

3. Damp In Into the Water

Mist the leaves with water until they are damp. This is important to ensure that the pile of leaves is moistened evenly throughout. It is also necessary to continue to water the pile so it doesn’t dry out, as dry leaves take much longer to break down and decompose. To check if the moisture level is sufficient, squeeze a handful of leaves, and if a few droplets of water come out, no more water is needed.

Once the pile has been sufficiently moistened, it should be placed in a partially shaded area of your yard that isn’t too close to any buildings or other structures. This will help keep the pile from drying out too quickly and will also help keep pests away from your compost pile. With these steps completed, you can begin turning your leafy waste into nutrient-rich compost for your garden.

4. Cover the Pile Tarb

This helps conserve moisture during dry periods, which is essential for composting. The tarp should be securely fastened around the pile’s edges and made of a material allowing air to pass through it. It should also be thick enough to block out light, as this can inhibit the decomposition process.

When turning or adding more moisture to the pile, it is important to remove the tarp so that oxygen can reach all parts of the compost. This will help speed up the decomposition process and ensure all materials are properly broken down. After turning or adding moisture, replace the tarp to keep moisture levels consistent throughout the composting period.

5. Turn the Leaf Every Two or Three Weeks

Turning the pile every two to three weeks with a garden fork. This helps to keep the moisture evenly distributed, provides aeration, and helps all the leaves break down at an equal speed. Turning the pile also ensures that the leaves in the interior are moved to the outside.

Shredded leaves can be placed in a heavy-duty garbage bag with holes poked for air and drainage if you don’t have space for a compost pile. Instead of turning the pile, shake up this bag every few weeks to ensure even decomposition. If you follow those 5 steps attentively, you can reduce the decomposition time.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

1. Are dead leaves still toxic?

Dead leaves are not considered to be toxic. However, they can contain some residual pesticides or herbicides from the plants they fell from. These chemicals can leach into the soil and harm other plants or organisms.

2. What are the benefits of composting leaves?

Composting leaves is a great way to reduce waste and recycle valuable nutrients in your garden. Composting also helps create a nutrient-rich soil amendment to improve your plants’ health. Composting leaves also helps reduce the amount of yard waste sent to landfills, which can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts.

3. Do fall leaves enrich the soil?

Organic matter can be added to your soil by leaving the leaves. There will be many benefits from adding organic matter to the soil since most garden plants grow best in moist, moisture-retentive soil that supports worms, insects, and other organisms, so adding organic matter will be helpful.

4. Do leaves eventually go away?

Yes, leaves eventually go away. It takes a few weeks to several years for leaves to decompose, depending on the environment and type of leaf. Leaves in moist, warm climates will decompose more quickly than in cold or dry climates. Sunlight helps break down the leaves faster as well.

5. Can you bury leaves in garden soil?

Yes, you can bury leaves in garden soil. This is a great way to add organic matter to the soil and improve its nutrient content. Leaves are a natural carbon source, essential for healthy plant growth.


How long leaves decompose depends on the environment and type of leaf. In general, decomposing leaves will take a few weeks to several years. The steps are also mentioned above if you want to reduce the time. Use those steps and get rid of leaves from your backyard easily.

About the Author

Virginia E. Hayes is a gardening enthusiast who loves to write about gardening tools, safety issues, and ways to keep gardens clean and safe. With her vast experience in gardening, she provides valuable insights and tips to help fellow gardening enthusiasts to enhance their gardening experience. Her passion for gardening and writing has made her a sought-after author in the gardening community.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}