While Idahoans love trees and landscaped gardens, well-manicured lawns typically generate large volumes of yard waste. In fact, most municipalities have too many. Since many cities and counties in Idaho do not have green waste collection programs, green waste makes up a high percentage of waste disposed of in landfills. Reducing the amount of solid waste that goes into landfills is just one big reason to recycle yard waste at home. Your efforts benefit the whole community, and ultimately they benefit your landscape.
This fall, plan to recycle the leaves instead of raking them, bagging them, and curbside them for disposal with the garbage. Where there is only a light dusting of leaves, you can mulch the leaves with your lawn mower and leave them to decompose on the lawn.
Like lawn clippings, the decomposed leaves form water which retains humus and adds nutrients to the lawn, reducing fertilizer and water needs. When grass clippings or leaves become heavy enough to warrant disposing of them from the lawn, compost them or use them directly in your gardens and flower beds instead of sending them to the landfill. Do the “Rot Thing” and improve your garden soils for better root growth.
When pruning this fall, rent a chipper and turn wood waste into valuable mulch that will help retain water around your trees, reduce weed growth and make your garden more attractive. If you don’t have a lot of limbs and branches to grind, organize a neighborhood project and split the expense and labor with your neighbors.
Larger diameter branches can be used as firewood to reduce heating costs this winter, or made into valuable wood for furniture, fencing or other wood products. If you don’t have a fire pit, consider giving the wood to a friend or family in need, or selling it and using the money to buy a new tree to plant!
Remember to water your trees deeply before winter sets in. A good soak before the frost enters the ground will help prevent the tree’s growth from drying out this year. It also helps support an actively growing root system. Most root expansion occurs after the leaves of the tree have fallen. Since the roots are not busy supporting leaves and tree growth in the fall, underground growth occurs rapidly when the top of the tree is dormant. If we have a dry and hot winter, water once a month throughout the season.
For more information on tree care, pest identification, professional landscaping advice and more, visit https://www.idl.idaho.gov/urban-forestry.