As the LELE initiative affirms, recycling organic yard debris on-site saves municipal tax dollars spent on collection and processing. There are many ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle grass clippings, leaves, brush and branches, and organic kitchen scraps.
Effective yard debris management reduces waste, recycles organic materials, and can help to beautify one's property.
Simple, easy-to-learn techniques for reusing natural (and free) materials, providing environmental benefits for your plants and soil, include:
Composting is a natural recycling process that can be done at home with lawn and garden waste. Microorganisms from the soil interact with compost materials to help break down plant matter. Proper moisture, air, and temperature aid these microorganisms in their work. Finished compost is used as an organic plant food and soil amendment.
Grasscycling is leaving grass clippings on the lawn to decompose. Grass clippings are mostly water. When you mow regularly, clippings quickly decompose and release nutrients to fertilize the lawn. Research shows that when grass clippings are left on the lawn, one-third less fertilizer is needed to achieve the same color and grass density found on lawns where the clippings are removed.
Mulches help soil retain moisture, moderate temperature fluctuations, and reduce erosion and soil compaction. Yard wastes such as grass clippings, shredded leaves, and chipped or shredded brush and branches can be used as organic mulches. Organic mulches are usually applied three inches deep over the soil and around plants to achieve the benefits of mulching.
Mulching Leaves in Place
Leaves are rich in carbon, phosphorus, and potassium - all essential nutrients needed by plants, including turf grasses. Simply mow leaves along with the grass during fall, and let the small leaf pieces filter down among the grass blades. Multiple passes may be required to chop leaves fine enough so that they filter through the turf and expose grass leaves to sunlight.
Whether you have a big yard and don't use it all for activities, or if you have a small yard with only foundation beds, consider planting an area of native grasses, perennials, shrubs, and/or trees. Using native plant species reduces the need for watering, mowing, and pesticide use. It also means creates a beautiful yard that attracts more birds and butterflies by providing shelter and natural food sources.
Consider designing your landscape with on-site storm water management: rain gardens, rain barrels and permeable pavement. Not only can rain water be saved for re-use irrigating/watering your plants, but debris & contaminants from paved areas or roofs can be pre-filtered before reaching nearby streams and/or storm water sewers. Also, by slowing and holding storm water, better infiltration into the soil can help recharge local aquifers.
Red worms live in the upper layer of the forest floor. These worms can turn food waste into nutrient-rich humus for gardens and houseplants. A mere tablespoon of worm castings provides enough organic plant nutrients to feed an eight inch potted plant for over two months. Use a worm composting bin or vermicomposting bin to make a valuable soil amendment out of things like: old newspapers, vegetable food scraps, trimmings from house plants and other organic materials that would normally be thrown away.
(Note: most of these descriptions quoted from http://www.recyclemorewisconsin.org.)