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Yard Materials

Many Wisconsin communities have community composting programs for yard materials. Check with your municipality to see if curbside collection or drop-off sites for yard materials are available.


There are many ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle grass clippings, leaves, brush and branches, and organic kitchen scraps. Effective yard debris management reduces waste and recycles organic materials.

Did you know that backyard burning creates air pollution, is a health hazard to people with asthma and other allergies, creates a fire hazard, and is a nuisance to neighbors? Urbanization also makes the old management practice of burning obsolete and wasteful of resources. Using yard debris on-site saves municipal tax dollars for collection and processing besides reusing natural materials to beautify one’s yard.

Mulching Leaves in Place

Leaves are rich in carbon, phosphorus, and potassium – all essential nutrients needed by plants, including turf grasses. Simply mow leaves along with the grass during fall, and let the small leaf pieces filter down among the grass blades. Three to four passes may be required to chop leaves fine enough so that they filter through the turf and expose grass leaves to sunlight.


Composting is a natural recycling process that can be done at home with lawn and garden waste. Microorganisms from the soil interact with compost materials to help break down plant matter. Proper moisture, air, and temperature aid these microorganisms in their work. Finished compost is used as an organic plant food and soil amendment.


Grasscycling is leaving grass clippings on the lawn to decompose. Grass clippings are mostly water. When you mow regularly, clippings quickly decompose and release nutrients to fertilize the lawn. Research shows that when grass clippings are left on the lawn, one-third less fertilizer is needed to achieve the same color and grass density found on lawns where the clippings are removed.


Mulches help soil retain moisture, moderate temperature fluctuations, and reduce erosion and soil compaction. Yard wastes such as grass clippings, leaves, and chipped or shredded brush and branches can be used as organic mulches. Organic mulches are usually applied three inches deep over the soil and around plants to achieve the benefits of mulching.


Red worms live in the upper layer of the forest floor. These worms can turn food waste into nutrient-rich humus for gardens and houseplants. A mere tablespoon of worm castings provides enough organic plant nutrients to feed an eight inch potted plant for over two months. Use a worm composting bin or vermicomposting bin to make a valuable soil amendment out of things like: old newspapers, vegetable food scraps, trimmings from house plants and other organic materials that would normally be thrown away.

Alternative Landscaping

If you have a big yard and don’t use it for activities, consider planting an area of prairie grasses, native shrubs, or trees. Using native plant species reduces the need for watering, mowing, and pesticide use. It could also mean a beautiful yard that attracts more birds and butterflies by providing shelter and natural food.

Banned from Wisconsin landfills:

Yard waste including grass clippings, leaves, yard and garden debris and brush less than six inches in diameter.


Home Composting (DNR)

Cornell University Waste Management Institute – Composting Information

How Composting Works

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