After the leaves fall, put them to work for your lawn, environment

HONOLULU — Fall has officially arrived and leaves will begin littering lawns, sidewalks and gutters.

But it’s not all bad.

Recycling leaves and grass clippings and putting them to work in yards and gardens will help fertilize and produce greener and healthier lawns, plants and flowers.

“It is estimated that up to one-third of household waste is organic waste from our yards and kitchens, just the type of material that can be used in compost, rather than crowding our landfills,” Paul Burns, vice president and general manager for Waste Management of Hawaii, said in a press release. “Whether you do it yourself at home or purchase compost or mulch from a home improvement center, yard trimmings can serve as a rich amendment or nutrient for your soil.”

Fall leaves can be turned into compost or mulch. Compost is decomposed leaves and other organic matter that is mixed into the soil as a nutrient, while mulch is a top cover that goes around plants or on top of the soil to prevent the growth of weeds and protect the soil from temperature changes. Leaves used for mulch should not be fully decomposed; instead, they should be shredded and kept in their own bin until they’re used, which can be immediately.

Composting involves putting leaves, yard trimmings and kitchen scraps into a compost bin where aeration and moisture are controlled to facilitate the decomposition process. The materials need to be periodically mixed, turned over and watered to encourage this process, which eventually produces a rich soil amendment.

In addition to composting and mulching, grasscycling is a process that not only saves time and money, but also protects the environment and reduces the time and effort usually put into lawn care. Grasscycling simply means leaving the grass clippings in place on your lawn after mowing. The clippings quickly decompose and seep into the ground, providing proper nutrition to fertilize the soil. This process naturally eliminates the waste otherwise created by mowing the lawn, by recycling the clippings back into the grass.

“We can all make our community even more beautiful by helping nature through participating in the composting, mulching and grasscycling,” Burns said. “It’s also important that we are careful to make sure that as we water or fertilize, these materials, pet waste and litter are kept out of our storm drains, which discharge into many natural waterways and oceans.”


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