With some jurisdictions reporting that 50 percent of collected garbage is actually yard waste, many municipalities are limiting their collection of it. Many also forbid the burning of waste. If faced with an abundance of yard waste, there are many ways to get rid of it without setting it out with the garbage. When you involve the kids, managing yard waste provides lessons in gardening, environmental stewardship and civic responsibility.
Grass clippings often make up a large portion of a family's yard waste. Added to the compost pile, they serve as the pile's nitrogen-rich, "green" ingredient. If your lawn mower has a mulching attachment, you can eliminate clippings altogether. The attachment, along with a special mulching blade, cuts grass blades so small they almost disappear on the lawn. The shredded clippings conserve water during drought and naturally fertilize the lawn.
You can add most yard waste to the compost pile. In addition to grass clippings, add leaves -- a carbon-rich "brown" material -- weeds that have not gone to seed, shredded twigs and old mulch. It's not necessary to maintain a scientifically perfect pile. Add the waste as you generate it. Keeping the pile slightly damp and turning the ingredients every few weeks during spring and summer usually provides lovely compost in a year or less. Speed up the process by shredding leaves with the lawnmower. Run branches thicker than 1/2-inch through a chipper before adding them to the pile.
Many municipalities maintain large-scale composting facilities. Most facilities require that leaves, grass clippings and small twigs be placed in bags -- preferably paper or clear plastic -- and set out on recycling day. Some cities and counties will collect larger branches if they are cut to manageable sizes and bundled. The compost and mulch that results are used either for municipal landscaping, sold or given to residents.
Getting the Kids Involved
Let children participate. Have them manage the compost pile by adding material, watering, turning and tracking its progress. Teach them to recognize materials in the house that can be composted rather than put out for collection, such as raw vegetable scraps, coffee and tea waste, crushed eggshells and black and white newsprint. If your local composting facility allows visitors, take them to see how a large composing operation works.