Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

How do I use leaves and grass clippings from my yard?

Instead of looking at leaves, grass clippings and other garden debris as waste, recycle them in your yard. You can recycle these organic materials in ways that will benefit both your plants and the environment. In addition, it is now illegal for many homeowners to dispose of yard waste in their household trash.

Most people think of composting when they consider the process of recycling materials like leaves, grass clippings and garden debris. Composting is an excellent way to process and reuse these organic materials. For information on composting, refer to message 3101. However, if you choose not to compost, here are other methods for recycling yard waste materials.

Leave grass clippings on the lawn when you mow. If you leave clippings on your lawn, you can usually cut your fertilizer applications by about 25%. Clippings left on the lawn do not contribute greatly to thatch build up. They decay quickly which recycles nutrients back into the soil. To make this solution work it is important to mow your lawn often enough so clumps of clippings are not left on the lawn. Mulching mowers can be useful but are not required.

If you need to bag grass clippings, they can be added to the compost pile or used as mulch in the vegetable garden or beneath trees and shrubs in no more than a 2-inch layer. As a mulch they conserves soil moisture, inhibit weed growth, moderates soil temperature, reduces soil compaction, and provide nutrients while slowly decaying.

Dig leaves and grass clippings along with other garden debris, directly into vegetable and flower garden soil. These materials will quickly decay in the soil especially if you chop or shred leaves and garden debris into small pieces.

Use raked leaves as mulch beneath trees and shrubs. Along with the usual benefits mulch covers provide, they also may be used to eliminate some of the hard to mow areas in your yard. In addition, mulching around landscape plants helps keep weeds from growing reducing the use of lawn mowers and weed whips around shrub stems and tree trunks where damage to the trunks of trees and shrubs may occur.

If you have only a few leaves on your lawn, simply mow them along with the grass during fall and allow the small pieces to filter down among the grass blades. Just like grass clippings, they will decay, and recycle their nutrients back into the soil. Chip tree and shrub prunings to make an excellent mulch material for landscape plants. You can purchase garden size chipper shredders at the hardware store and from mail order garden supply catalogs. They're also available for rent. Some commercial tree services do custom chipping at the curbside. You can also cut up larger branches for kindling and firewood. If you are not familiar with your municipalities guidelines on sending lawn and yard waste to land fills, call your city hall.