What To Do With Yard Waste

It’s no secret that yard work creates yard waste. Sometimes finding a way to dispose of your clippings can be just as difficult as the yard work itself. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be. Improve the impact of your yard on the planet (and your pocket book) with these eco-friendly and easy-to-do solutions for all of your yard waste disposal needs.

Four Types of Yard Waste Disposal

There are four basic types of yard waste disposal. But not all methods of disposal are created equal.

Reuse

Grasscycle

Compost

Garbage (last resort) 

We recommend first attempting to reuse any waste, next grasscycle, then compost and finally – when there is no other option – throw it away. Unfortunately, 35%-45% of waste in landfills is organic matter that could’ve been reused, grasscycled or composted. In 2017 alone, landfills received 8.7 million tons of yard trimmings. And while this organic matter has great environmental benefits when disposed of properly, in the landfill it is converted into a greenhouse gas called methane, which is a leading contributor to global warming. Avoid the landfill and hefty disposal fees by trying one of these easy, eco-friendly and affordable yard waste management options.  

Reuse Yard Waste

Naturally, your yard waste makes for great wildlife habitat. Whether you are interested in creating an avian sanctuary, increasing pollinator habitat or just making a more bird-friendly backyard, those sticks, branches and shrub limbs make wonderful bird structures. But big structures aren’t the only way to up the wildlife in your yard. During migration, leave some yard debris along the outskirts of your property to provide much needed shelter for birds as they make their yearly flights.

Overwintering insects, from butterflies and moths to bees and wasps, use leaves, plant stems, and mulch for shelter. Almost every type of insect will use yard waste for habitat. As some of these insects can be considered pests, it is important to designate a specific area of your yard for yard waste habitat. We recommend a far corner or area away from your home, garden or grow boxes.

 

Pro Tip: If ticks are a concern, try mulching to encourage rapid leaf breakdown and limit tick habitat, or dispose of leaves via compost or garbage. 

 

Mulch is a great option for reusing your yard waste. In the fall especially, mow leaves before raking them up and spread them in planters, or around bushes, shrubs and trees. 

Don’t be afraid to get creative. A stick can make a perfect tomato steak, you can build a trestle out of tree branches, and limbs from shrubs can make great decorative additions to planters and window grow boxes. 

Grasscycle Your Lawn

It really is as easy as cutting your grass and leaving the clippings where they land. Clippings add nutrients and organic matter back into your soil as they break down. Grasscycling can even help soil better retain moisture. If your lawn has an exceedingly high number of weeds that have gone to seed, it is better to bag them as those plants will seed the area. But as long as there isn’t an abundance of seeded plants growing, give grasscycling a try.

Grasscycle in 3 Easy Steps:

  1. Be sure to cut only 1/3 of the grass length at a time. Larger piles of clippings won’t break down as quickly and may block air and sunlight.
  2. Mow when the lawn is dry. Wet clippings can clump up instead of spreading evenly over the lawn.
  3. Just leave the clippings on the lawn. Within a day, they will start to settle into the soil and break down.

Make the Most of Your Yard Waste with Compost

Composting can transform your yard waste into nutrient rich material that will feed your yard for years to come. And the best part, it’s basically free! Whether you are dealing with an abundance of leaves, grass clippings, tree trimmings or garden waste, starting a compost pile is the best way to use your lawn waste to increase your soil health. Elevate the chemical composition of your soil, increase slow-release nutrients and increase water retention with a home compost.

There are two types of compost, vermicompost and thermophilic compost. Both can be built in a closed container, open pile, or anything in between. For home use, a compost container will make aeration, moisture management and pest control the easiest, and get the quickest results.

 

Vermicomposting: Earthworms and various gut microbes eat the materials to produce nutrient rich earthworm manure.

Thermophilic: Heat encourages microbes to decompose organic matter.

 

Start Your Compost in 5 Easy Steps

  1. Pick your location. Look for a dry, shady spot that is close to a water source.
  2. Use a mix of green and brown materials. Avoid adding meat, dairy, oil, salty or processed foods.
  3. Hose your compost pile down if it gets too dry but avoid drenching it.
  4. Mix the pile occasionally to make sure there is enough oxygen and microbial activity. Add new materials as needed.
  5. Stay patient. Compost piles can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months to be ready for use.

Garbage

If you do need to dispose of your yard waste off site, we recommend using your local green waste pickup. Most cities will collect your yard waste and turn it into compost or mulch. If your area doesn’t have a service, try finding a drop off location. For diseased or pest-infested materials, it is definitely better to get the waste off of your property to avoid spreading contaminants, but please avoid traditional trash pickup or the landfill if at all possible.

Lawn Care the Sunday Way

Better lawn care is more than just the products we use, it is the way we think about our outdoor spaces and how our yards affect the world beyond our property line. The Sunday Way means reconnecting with nature, supporting the environment, and saving resources, money, and time. We believe that a more thoughtful approach will continue to have a positive impact on our planet.

Cited Sources

Burns, P. Leave the leaves. North Carolina Cooperative Extension.  

Penn, R. Rethinking yard waste disposal. Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and University of Florida. 

United States Environmental Protection Agency. Yard Trimmings: Material-Specific Data.

Wheeler, J. Leave the leaves! Xerces Society.