Grass, leaves, and other wastes from lawns and backyard gardens account for an estimated 18% of the annual municipal waste stream. During the summer, grass can comprise up to 50% of municipal wastes. Leaf waste can account for as much as 60-80% in the fall. This massive, seasonal volume of yard wastes can use up valuable landfill space. Burning yard wastes at home causes air pollution from carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Also, because burning yard wastes can be a fire hazard as well as a nuisance to neighbors, certain communities have ordinances in place to prohibit burning.
The alternative is composting. Yard waste is composed of materials that, if left in their natural state, would form humus. Composting is an accelerated version of the natural decay process. Left to decay naturally, leaf waste can take approximately two years to form humus. With human intervention, making compost can take about one year or as little as 14 days.
You can make a ton of compost at home in an area only 4' square. If you don't have a backyard, you can make smaller amounts of compost in plastic garbage bags. Backyard composting reduces the expense of buying fertilizers for gardens, landscaping and potted plants. And since many foods can be composted, including coffee grounds and eggshells, home composting can reduce food wastes as well as yard wastes.
Please come and visit the Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority's Backyard Compost Demonstration Site. We have on display different types of backyard composters.
If you would like instructions for building different types of composting bins, please check out our Plans for Building a Home Composting Bin.
For another great website on composting and how to compost, click here.
- Grass clippings and other yard waste account for about 20% of the municipal solid waste deposited in landfills.
- Collection and transportation of this material is costly.
- Bagging grass clippings removes valuable soil nutrients otherwise provided by the decomposed grass blades.
- Grass cycle! Simply leave the grass clippings on the lawn after mowing. This reduces the costs and labor involved in bagging and returns essential nutrients to the soil. Grass clippings contain quickly decomposing leaf tissue and therefore do not contribute to thatch!
- Control the growth rate (and have a healthier lawn) with proper fertilizing and watering.
- Mowing Practices
Mow weekly or bi-weekly during peak growing season, removing no more than a third of leaf tissue. This will allow clippings to break down rapidly. Although standard mowers do a fine job, mulching mowers will chop the grass blades intofiner pieces for even quicker breakdown. Lawn mower manufacturers also offer mulching "kits" to turn your mower into a mulcher.
As anyone who takes care of their yard knows, delayed mowing during rainy periods causes over-grown turf. Those large clumps of grass, formed after mowing an over-grown turf, can be; spread out by re-mowing, removed and composted, or used as mulch.
Grasscycling reduces the need for supplemental fertilizers. Apply needed fertilizer in small amounts only two or three times during a growing season (mid-late May and early-mid September are best). Too much fertilizer may cause a shallow root system to develop and weaken the lawn.
- WateringWater just enough to wet the entire root system. Too much water will eventually damage the roots and may cause disease. Frequent but light watering will also cause a shallow root system.