3 Clever Ways To Use Up Yard Trimmings And Clippings – For a Zero-Waste Garden (2024)

Reducing yard waste should be a major priority for all gardeners. Every year, an estimated 10.5 million tons of trimmings and clippings are sent to landfill, rather than being composted.

When this organic material is mixed with other waste it can break down and produce harmful gases that are bad news for the environment. What’s more, many gardeners often dispose of their yard waste in plastic bags.

However, most of the trimmings from trees and shrubs, as well as grass clippings from the lawn, can be reused throughout the landscape.

Not only is this more sustainable and beneficial to the biodiversity of your yard, but it can save you money on purchasing mulch and compost.

If you don't currently have a compost heap, then that’s an excellent place to start. However, if you’re looking to take your sustainable gardening to the next level, then these tips will go towards growing a no-waste garden.

The exception to reusing trimmings is where plants are diseased – this material should be disposed of, or burned.

1. Create a Hugelkultur raised bed

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If you have plenty of branches and logs in the garden, then use them as the basis of a raised bed for growing edibles or flowers.

Raised beds can be expensive to fill if you buy new bags of soil and compost. However, this cost can be dramatically reduced by utilizing the Hugelkultur system, which is a traditional eastern European gardening method that layers up woody materials and other organic debris.

Over time, the matter breaks down to create a fertile, moist, but well-draining growing medium. In tests, vegetables cultivated in Hugelkultur beds grew bigger and were more productive. The beds are usually warmer than traditional raised beds, too, allowing you to get a head start on the growing season.

To make a Hugelkultur raised bed, you need to cut out a 1 foot (30 cm) deep trench. This can be whatever size you want your bed to be, although around 4 foot wide (120cm) should be narrow enough for you to reach the center. Fill the hole with logs, twigs, and branches, going up to the rim of your hole. Give these a thorough watering.

Next, add some of the turf that you dug out the planting hole, grass clippings, leaves, and other organic matter, such as manure. You can also add kitchen scraps, newspaper, and straw. Layer this up like a lasagna and pack it in firmly. You are aiming for the bed to be around 2-3 feet (60-90cm) high.

Finally, top off the bed with 2-3 inches (5-8cm) of topsoil and a layer of mulch, then give it a thorough watering.

The logs and branches will become spongy as they decompose and soak up a lot of water. This means that the bed won’t require a lot of watering in the future.

It will take around 4-6 months before your Hugelkultur bed is ready for planting and you can reap the rewards of a bountiful harvest.

2. Make organic mulch

3 Clever Ways To Use Up Yard Trimmings And Clippings – For a Zero-Waste Garden (2)

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There are numerous types of mulch that you can make using garden waste. Mulch adds nutrients to the soil, helps to retain moisture, insulates against cold weather, and also keeps down weeds.

Matchstick mulch uses the stems of herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses to create a nutritious organic addition to your beds. Simply cut the stems into matchstick-length pieces using hand shears, and then spread these around your plants.

Wood chip mulch is useful where you have a lot of logs and access to a wood chipper – if not, you could consider renting one. As well as mulch, wood chips can be used to make informal paths.

Leaf mulch is easy to make using a lawn mower. Most gardens have a pile up of leaves in their garden during fall and winter, and they are filled with nutrients that can benefit the soil. It’s best to dry the leaves before shredding them, but you can also use leaves after the season that have been moist and developed into leaf mold. Spread your leaf mulch around 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5cm) thick over perennial beds.

Grass mulch enables your grass clippings to be recycled back down into the lawn –also known as grasscycling. The easiest way to do this is to use a mulching lawn mower, which will finely shred the blades and distribute them into the grass. However, as long as you do not cut off too much grass at any one time, you can use a regular mower with the collection box removed. Clippings shorter than 1 inch (2.5cm) will quickly break down into the soil. Longer clippings can be collected and either used as mulch around established plants, or dug into the soil.

3. Build a home for wildlife

3 Clever Ways To Use Up Yard Trimmings And Clippings – For a Zero-Waste Garden (3)

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A pile of logs, sticks, and dried, hollow plant stems makes a wonderful home for creepy crawlies. Add structure with bricks and old terracotta pots, include some pinecones, and stuff in dried leaves between the gaps.

Once the wood starts to break down, your bug hotel will be teeming with minibeasts – which will be a draw for other beneficial wildlife.

A bug hotel might not be the most glamorous addition to the garden, but it will help to promote biodiversity and support local wildlife.

3 Clever Ways To Use Up Yard Trimmings And Clippings – For a Zero-Waste Garden (2024)


3 Clever Ways To Use Up Yard Trimmings And Clippings – For a Zero-Waste Garden? ›

Lawn clippings usually do not need to be bagged. Recycling lawn clippings can reduce your fertilizer needs and improve your soil. Recycling clippings to the lawn does not contribute to thatch. If you must remove clippings, they can be composted or used as mulch.

What can I do with large amounts of grass clippings? ›

Lawn clippings usually do not need to be bagged. Recycling lawn clippings can reduce your fertilizer needs and improve your soil. Recycling clippings to the lawn does not contribute to thatch. If you must remove clippings, they can be composted or used as mulch.

What is zero waste gardening? ›

Here are just a few ways gardening reduces waste:

Less or no packaging: Your garden food comes unwrapped. Less transport: The closer to the kitchen the better. Less energy for refrigeration. Repurposing: You can make your own planters, seed trays, and tools.

What is an example of yard waste? ›

Also called green waste and yard waste, the category of yard trimmings covers a broad swath of materials including deciduous leaves, pine needles, grass clippings, unused fruits and vegetables, shrubs, tree branches, garden vegetation, aquatic plants, and other vegetative materials.

Is it OK to put grass clippings in the vegetable garden? ›

In the short term, a layer of grass clippings also acts as a mulch, cooling the soil, slowing the loss of moisture, and holding down the germination of new weeds. When used correctly, grass clippings can serve as a great mulch for your vegetable garden.

How long does it take for grass clippings to decompose? ›

A well-managed compost pile with shredded materials under warm conditions usually will be ready in one to four months. But if a pile or bin is left unattended and material is not shredded, the pile may take a year or longer to decompose.

What is a dirt free method of gardening? ›

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. You can grow hydroponically all year long. Hydroponics uses less water than traditional soil-based systems. Hydroponic growing allows for faster growth and higher yields than traditional soil-based growing systems.

How do you break down garden waste? ›

We would always recommend using a compost bin, but if you can't buy a compost bin, you can create an open compost pile for garden waste only. Remember not to add food waste to an open compost pile as this can attract vermin and avoid using paper or card as they can become a litter problem.

How can we use waste in the garden? ›

How to reuse waste within your garden
  1. Start home composting. This is an easy option for turning garden waste into useful compost. ...
  2. Make good use of fallen leaves. ...
  3. Use felled trees and pruned branches to make wood-chip mulch. ...
  4. Try matchstick mulching. ...
  5. Find uses for logs. ...
  6. Mulch with grass clippings.

What is the most yard waste? ›

By weight, grass is the biggest component of yard waste, averaging half of all yard waste. Leaves and brush each provide one quarter.

What is the main method of disposal for yard waste? ›

Municipal collection sites often accept a variety of yard waste materials, including branches, leaves, and grass clippings. Properly sorting waste at these locations ensures that it undergoes appropriate disposal methods, such as composting or recycling, minimizing the environmental impact.

What is dump yard? ›

Definitions of waste-yard. a piece of land where waste materials are dumped. synonyms: dump, dumpsite, garbage dump, rubbish dump, trash dump, wasteyard.

What are good plant cuttings? ›

Find the Best Stems for Cutting

Choose green, soft (non-woody) stems for cuttings. Newer growth is easier to root than woody, older stems. Look for a stem with a node—a bump along the stem where a leaf or flower bud attaches.

How do you use cuttings? ›

Cut just below a bud at the bottom of each cutting, using a straight cut. Insert the lower ends of the cuttings into the trench or pots so that one-third of each cutting remains above the soil surface. Space cuttings 15cm (6in) apart in trenches. Leave the cuttings in the trench or pots until the following autumn.

Should I put cuttings in water or soil? ›

This. Propagation for many plants is best done in potting soil, but some plants can be propagated in water. This is because they have evolved in an environment that allows it. Most Aroid plants can be propagated in water, including pothos plants, philodendrons, monsteras, and ZZ plants.

What happens to a big pile of grass clippings? ›

If you allow grass to decompose on your lawn, it'll be gone soon, usually within a few weeks. If you compost grass in a pile and turn regularly, it'll turn into compost in a few months.

How do you decompose grass clippings quickly? ›

gather raked leaves, grass clippings and veggie remains into a pile, wet it down and throw on a few handfuls of 10–10–10 fertilizer. Let decompose. Turn with pitchfork occasionally. In a warm climate this will go quickly.

Does putting grass clippings on bare spots help grass grow? ›

Unless you've let the lawn grow excessively long, or the clippings are in thick clumps, grass clippings are a good source of nutrients. Leaving clippings helps save fertilizer costs and thereby prevents ground and surface water contamination.

What eats grass clippings? ›

to cattle – Freshly-mowed grass clippings, as well as fully fermented clippings can be safely consumed as long as they do so within 8 hours of the mowing. to goats and/or sheep – if freshly mowed, grass clippings can be fed in small amounts or if you have allowed the clippings to dry completely.

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