Mention the word “recycle,” and many people automatically leap to thinking of glass, plastic, paper, aluminum and the range of consumer materials we acquire every day.
But there’s another recyclable that many of us overlook, one that plays a critical role in the health of our ecosystem, and one that, managed properly, could go a long way to saving you money.
Leaves. Grass clippings. Twigs. That is, the detritus so often generated by modern-day lawn maintenance.
Often, people want to deal with yard waste by bagging it and setting it by the curb for trash haulers to cart away. Or, they break out the leaf blower or rake and push clippings into the street, to be washed by the next rain into the storm sewer system.
Keep in mind, disposing of yard waste in landfills both wastes valuable space and is prohibited by Florida statute. Likewise, legal codes bar sweeping yard waste into the sewers, which can clog the system and pollute water bodies.
Better to “Recycle Yard Waste,” which is the latest stop on our journey through the nine principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™. And much like any lengthy journey needs the occasional break, this is a principle that is remarkably easy to implement.
Money for nothing
How easy? Well, in many ways, it’s like doing nothing… or, almost nothing.
For example, you don’t need to rake up grass clippings after you mow the lawn. Instead, leave them in place and let their natural decay act as a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer for your lawn. Studies show that this practice can reduce fertilizer need – and your fertilizer bills – by as much as half, without harming your turf grass.
Similarly, you can skip raking fallen leaves and pine needles. They make excellent mulch, helping to hold in moisture and keep weeds under control. That’s a boon for the environment and your bank account, since it reduces the need for watering and pest treatments.
For those of you who like a more neatly manicured lawn, there are some useful, more direct recycling approaches, as well.
Try raking the leaves and pine needles into piles behind shrubs, where they can decay out of sight. You can simply mow over them where they’ve fallen (on the lawn, of course), or “top dress” them with a layer of mulch. Each of these helps create that layer of valuable mulch.
Composting your yard waste requires a little more work – gathering materials, mixing matter – but it provides wonderful benefits. Compost piles, which break down your yard waste and kitchen scraps, produce a natural fertilizer or mulch that adds valuable nutrients to the soil. You can learn more about composting at http://sarasota.ifas.ufl.edu/compost/.
We also offer composting classes (including vermi-composting, or composting with worms). Visit our Eventbrite.com page (http://UFSarasotaExt.eventbrite.com) to find classes. Or, if you have a group of 15 or more who want more information, we can schedule a speaker to visit with you. Check our “Request a Speaker” link on our home page (http://sarasota.ifas.ufl.edu) to arrange that.
Remember to recycle. It’s one of the best things you can do for the environment – including helping out nature’s “soil builders”: microorganisms, earthworms and insects. It can save you money. And, really, it’s pretty easy.
Contact your local Extension office to learn more:
Sarasota County: 941-861-9900 or email@example.com
Manatee County: 941-722-4524 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Charlotte County: 941-764-4340 or email@example.com