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Earth-Friendly Gardening: Good for You and Mother Nature

GardeningThose of us lucky enough to have a garden or yard, know how rewarding it is to see the flowers we planted in bloom, prepare vegetables grown in our own backyard or just sit back in a lawn chair, relax and enjoy nature surrounding us. Gardens offer kids a wonderful space to play and can help adults relieve stress.

Why not make our gardens a true haven of health by minimizing the amount of synthetic chemicals we use and instead adopting some "Earth-friendly" gardening practices like composting and less toxic pest control? Gardening Mother Nature's way is not only healthier for our families and the environment, it also reduces waste, and can save time and money!

  • Composting
    Want to turn yard waste and kitchen scraps into rich, organic fertilizer for your garden? Learn how to start a compost pile in your backyard. Its easy!

  • Backyard Composting

    CompostingComposting is a natural, biological process that breaks down plant waste from the kitchen, lawn and garden into a soil-like material called humus. It's done by microorganisms that consume the organic material to produce compost.

    By composting in your backyard, you can turn your household waste into a valuable soil enhancement that offers many long-term benefits. Compost keeps soil loose, helps soil retain water, maintains soil pH and provides your plants with nutrients.

    To learn how to start and maintain a compost pile or bin, read on!

    Getting Started

    • To start a compost pile, choose a convenient, level, well-drained and sunny area in your yard.
    • Put down a layer of finished compost or topsoil. This will provide the microorganisms needed to break down the organic material. There is no need for a chemical compost starter or activator.
    • Alternate layers of dried out "brown" material such as dry leaves, twigs, straw and wood chips with moist "green" material such as grass clippings, plant trimmings and kitchen scraps. Add another thin layer of dirt every so often.
    • The pile should be roughly one cubic yard in volume

    Compost BinCompost Bins

    Composting can be done in an open pile or in containers. Containers confine the compost pile and make it more manageable and visually attractive. They can also provide weather protection, aid in heat retention and help keep animals out.

    You can build your own backyard compost bin or buy a Garden Gourmet composter from SVSWA for $49.99 (Picture Right). You can also buy compost bins from local hardware stores like Orchard, or Home Depot.

    Download PDF Files:
    Backyard Composting (English) (Spanish)
    Worm Composting (English) (Spanish)

    Maintaining the Compost Pile or Bin

    • Air:
      Make sure your pile/bin gets enough air. This is necessary for the survival of the aerobic bacteria that break down the material without generating odors. To aerate the pile, mix in coarse material like leaves or green twigs to create air voids or periodically turn the pile with a pitchfork or shovel or compost turner. Turn the pile only once a week or every other week to not disrupt the composting process.

    • Water:
      The pile should be as wet as a wrung out sponge. When you squeeze a handful, drops of water should come out and the compost should form a ball. If your compost is too dry, add water to prevent that the microorganisms die and decomposition slow down or stops. However, be careful not to over-water.

    Compostable Materials

    Chopped, woody prunings
    Pine needles
    Most sawdust
    Grass clippings
    Plant trimmings
    Weeds without seed heads
    Fruit and vegetable trimmings
    Coffee grounds and filters
    Citrus rinds
    Tea bags
    Herbivore manure
    Grains, beans or bread
    Sawdust from plywood/treated wood
    Meat, bones, fish
    Dog, cat or bird feces
    Diseased plants
    Dairy products

    Harvesting the Compost

    If you add fresh material to the pile or into the bin from the top, the more finished material will end up at the bottom. Finished compost is dark brown in color, crumbly, lightweight and has an earthy odor. Harvest the finished compost with a shovel, sift out any coarse, unfinished materials, then apply the compost to your garden as a mulch or top dressing, or dig it into the soil.

  • Grasscycling
    Grasscycling means mowing your lawn and nourishing it at the same time. Find out how.

  • Keep Your Lawn Happy with Grasscycling

    What is Grasscycling?

    Recycling your grass clippings - or "grasscycling" - means that you leave your grass clippings on top of your lawn after you mow. When done correctly, those clippings will rapidly decompose and naturally fertilize your lawn.

    GrasscyclingWhy Grasscycling is Good

    • Grasscycling naturally fertilizes your lawn, because the grass clippings -and the nutrients they contain -remain on your lawn. As the clippings naturally break down, those nutrients are released back into the soil to nourish your grass. No additional fertilizer needed!
    • Grasscycling saves time, effort and possibly money. No need to collect, bag and transfer grass clippings into your yard waste cart or even transport them to a composting facility.
    • Grasscycling saves water. Grass clippings left on the lawn keep act like a protective cover to your lawn, keeping moisture in the soil and preventing sun damage.
    • Grasscycling reduces waste, because it keeps grass clippings out of the landfill.

    How to Grasscycle Correctly

    You can grasscycle with any mower. Push-mowers and electric mowers are better for the environment.

    1. Take the bag off of your mower. Make sure that your mower has a safety flap to cover the chute. If you are unsure check your owner's manual.
    2. Mow your lawn when the grass is dry to prevent grass clippings from clumping.
    3. Mow frequently to keep grass clippings short so they decompose more quickly. If grass is long, mow in a circle so clippings get chopped up several times.

  • Less Toxic Gardening
    Fewer chemicals in our garden means a healthier and safer environment for our families and wildlife alike.

Need compost or wood chips for your garden? Visit