Turning Yard Waste into TN Gold

During this #GrowFoodChallenge season, as you clean-up your yards from leaves and clear out your garden beds of weeds, consider re-using these natural elements to the benefit of your wallet, your soil, and our climate. 

Recycling food and other organic waste into compost provides a range of environmental benefits, including improving soil health, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, recycling nutrients, and mitigating the impact of droughts. Composting can be done in many ways. It’s all about utilizing the power of natural decomposition processes, and turning yard scraps into Tennessee gold. My family composts by piling mounds all over our yard because we have lots of weeds – all over, and it’s a lot of yard waste to deal with. Instead of giving it away to a waste company, we give it back to the soil. 

6 Ways to Turn Yard Waste into Tennessee Gold

  1. Repurpose your Fall Leaves:  Add fallen leaves to your compost pile. The carbon in leaves is essential to a healthy compost pile by adding nutrients and keeping moisture. You can pile them up next to your compost and add them into your pile, gradually, all year. Don’t have a compost pile? Check out the Tennessee Environmental Council’s #Come Post Your Compost web and facebook group pages. 
  2. Use leaves in your potted plants: Mix dried leaves in the top two to three inches of soil. Overtime the leaves will decompose and increase nutrients, giving your potted plants a healthy start!
  3. Save your lawn by just mowing over your leaves: Instead of raking up your leaves, just go over your whole yard with your lawn mower, this will chop up the leaves, spread them out, and allow them to decompose throughout the winter. Shredded leaves are also a cost effective alternative to store bought mulch and will help protect grass, flower buds and seeds in your yard.
  4. Create Art Projects with your fallen leaves: Pick the most beautiful fall leaves to preserve and use for seasonal decorations. Leaves are a versatile art material. You can use them to stuff scarecrows, make a pretty wreath, and even for leaf rubbing art. If you would like to make leaf rubbing art, place fresh and/or dried leaves under a sheet of paper and shade over each leaf with a colored pencil or crayon – it’s magical!
  5. Gather the leaves and help the critters: Many wildlife species live or rely on the leaves to find food or make habitats. If you want to keep your yard clean, but help with wildlife then rake up the leaves and pill them up in a far corner of your yard. If you have a woodsy area on your property you can place them there!
  6. Save your cardboard & reduce waste in your neighborhood: Use cardboard in- between your garden bed rows and top them off with your neighbor’s leaf bags. It’s cheaper than buying bags of mulch and they decompose to create rich, luscious soil.

Use cardboard in-between your garden bed rows and top them off with your neighbor’s leaf bags. It’s cheaper than buying bags of mulch and they decompose to create rich, luscious soil. Make sure to remove any plastic tape the cardboard might have and the leaves are clean (with no garbage).

The combination of cardboard and leaves help the weeds stay blacked-out and not grow throughout season. Utilizing leaves around your yard builds your soil, protects from drought, and prevents pesky weeds from invading your pathways – saving you both time and money and protecting our earth’s natural resources: soil and water.

Read more: 7 Tips to Healthy Soil

Samantha Goyret
Local Food Network Team Blogger