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The Iowa Gardener | Veronica Lorson Fowler

What to do with your yard waste

Veronica Lorson Fowler

You can purchase soft-sided construction dumpsters and fill those with yard waste to haul to a composting site.
Veronica Lorson Fowler You can purchase soft-sided construction dumpsters and fill those with yard waste to haul to a composting site.

It’s that time of year when we are rake leaves, pull up annuals and cut back perennials. Even in a modest-sized garden, this can create a lot of yard waste. Here are some ideas for how to deal with all of that. Try one or a combination of these strategies.

• Start by finding out about any local yard waste days and regulations. Your city or county might have regulations (such as no burning) or special programs. In Cedar Rapids, go to http://www.cedar-rapids.org/residents/utilities/yard_waste.php to find out about special yard waste dumpsters and spring and fall leaf vacuum programs.

• Compost it. This is best for loose, smaller yard waste, such as leaves or annuals. It takes more time for larger, woody plant parts to break down. A compost heap is good for smaller amounts of yard waste, but you might need two or three to handle it. Or more. It’s not a good option for any diseased plants (such as most tomatoes at the end of the season) because the resulting compost might spread the plant disease.

• Bury it. Also known as pit composting, this involves digging a big hole and filling it with yard waste — no special equipment needed. This can be a lot of work, of course, but if you have the right spot and a good back, it’s a simple way to put organic material back into the soil. Cover with soil when you’re done, if you want.

• Bag it. Another way to handle small amounts of yard waste. It’s expensive (you have to buy all those bags). And it’s labor-intensive (you have to stuff it all into those bags). You might need special bags that comply with your waste management service.

• Haul it off. If you have larger amounts of yard waste, the most efficient option is to load it into a truck bed to take to its ultimate destination. This usually is a city or private recycling or composting site. These are open either during regular, set hours or your locality might sponsor free or low-cost yard waste days. Don’t have a truck bed? Try purchasing some soft-sided construction dumpsters and fill those. They usually have handles for easier lifting. Two or three will fit into the back, if you put the seats down.

• Toss it in a natural area. In some cases, piles of yard waste are wildlife-friendly, creating helpful natural habitat. But do this only if you own the land or if you’ve made arrangements with the landowner. Otherwise, it’s dumping and might be against the law. This includes public spaces such as ditches, woods and ravines.

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• Use a tarp. This is a great way to collect large amounts of leaves to dump into a truck, a pit, or to drag to an appropriate natural area.

• Hire it out. If you have lots of large branches, it might make sense to hire a landscaping service to come out and chip them. Also, keep your eye out for community groups that do fall yard cleanup as a fundraiser, often for a reasonable rate. And, of course, you always could hire a neighborhood kid.

• Veronica Lorson Fowler is co-publisher of The Iowa Gardener website at www.theiowagardener.com.

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