How to Use Lawn and Garden Clippings

Article written by Saturday6TM blogger Steve Asbell from The Rainforest Garden

Sometimes the lazy way is the best way. You could lug all of your lawn clippings, pruned branches, raked leaves and dug-up rocks to the curb, or you could instead put them to use. When you look at all of those branches and leaves as free loot for you to use in your garden, suddenly your chores become a lot more exciting.

Make Compost

Just about anything that comes from your garden can be mixed together and aged for months to make a very rich and fertile soil called compost. All you have to do is toss grass clippings, leaves, hedge clippings, branches, veggie scraps and weeds into a heap or bin. Use lopping shears, a saw or a chipper shredder to break large branches into smaller, more easily decomposed pieces. Every week or two, use a hoe or pitchfork to mix it all together ' this mixes in oxygen and keeps 'green' materials like grass clippings from getting too compacted. If the compost dries out, add water to help it decompose better. Compost is ready to use when it's been broken down into a black and crumbly soil. Either add a layer to your garden beds or mix it into the soil using a cultivator or tiller.

Make Mulch

Mulch is a layer of coarse material that forms a blanket over your soil, protecting the roots of your plants from drought, extreme temperatures and weeds. Mulch is also a home for beneficial insects and other organisms, especially when it's made up of different materials. You can buy bagged mulch that's made up of shredded bark and wood, but the best stuff is already in your garden. Besides, it's free. The next time you prune trees or hedges, feed the branches into a chipper shredder for instant mulch. Mix in some leaves and you'll have created a perfect blanket for your garden.

Attract Wildlife

It might seem crazy, but it works. Stick long branches into the soil and you'll soon be surprised by visiting dragonflies, butterflies and songbirds that will use your sticks as perches! You can also tie sticks together snugly to make homes for beneficial bees, lizards, bugs and snakes. Just saw or clip off the loose ends so that they line up to prevent your family's eyes from getting poked. If you find a lot of big rocks in the soil while tilling, stack them loosely together to make homes for toads and other creatures. Make a loose brush pile of branches and twigs in a discreet area of your garden so that small animals have a hiding place. If you have any annuals or perennials such as sunflowers with spent seed heads, gather them together and hang them from a tree branch with twine to make a bird feeder. These are only a few of the ways you can use the materials in your garden that would otherwise be bound for the curb. The next time you have to remove tree limbs with a pole saw, break them up into smaller pieces to make a rustic border for your flower bed. Whenever your back is sore from pulling weeds, just toss them on the compost pile and think of the rich soil it will become!


The Dirt from Troy-Bilt®, May/June 2014