Make yard waste environmentally friendly

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Agriculture News with Mike Pyles

Autumn is my favorite season. I really enjoy the myriad of fall colors and the clear blue sky that signals harvest time.

Although the anticipated fall color was somewhat mixed, the season still brings piles of leaves from our trees and spent shoots from our gardens and flower beds. 

The way you address this yard waste can have a significant impact on your garden and the environment.

Instead of raking leaves the traditional way, then bagging them and leaving them for garbage pickup, try mulching leaves instead. Decaying leaves are a bountiful resource that can enrich the soil in your lawn and garden. Mulching keeps these out of the landfill, reducing waste.

I like to mulch the leaves in my yard with the lawn mower as they fall. The mower will chop the leaves into pieces small enough to fall between the blades of grass in your lawn. There, over the winter, the chopped leaves will break down out of sight and provide nutrients to your lawn and improve the quality of your soil.

Mulching leaves also helps retain moisture in the soil and insulates plants from extreme winter temperatures. The decomposed leaves become an excellent conditioner for warming spring soil, helping to attract worms and beneficial micro-organisms.

For larger items like spent flower stalks and garden plants, composting is a simple, easy and environmentally friendly option. Proper composting produces no odor and provides you with a generous amount of nutrient-rich organic compost for your garden. This, in turn,  reduces or eliminates the need to buy fertilizer.

Composting also eliminates the need to transport garden waste, making composting a triple-win situation for your garden, wallet and the environment, according to Rebecca Schnelle, University of Kentucky Extension horticulture specialist. 

The speed of compost production is influenced by the size of the material placed in the bin; the more you can chop up garden debris into smaller pieces, the more quickly you will have usable compost.  There are many design options for compost bins to suit any location or budget. 

For more information, call me at the Trimble County Cooperative Extension Office, (502) 255-7188.


Michael Pyles is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture.