We all know about compost bins and compost crops, but how about composting in place with some of your other yard trimmings? It’s time to take your composting to the next level of sustainability.
Here are three simple composting-in-place strategies you can use to recycle yard waste in place instead of carrying it to the compost pile.
“Mow and go” is the slogan here. Use the mulching setting of your lawnmower to mulch the grass clippings and leave them in place instead of bagging and disposing of them.
The grass clippings do not contribute to thatch. They biodegrade quickly and return a small amount of nutrients and organic matter to your lawn.
Grass-cycling works well with St. Augustine, Bermuda and Bahia grasses but is not recommended for zoysia grass.
Perennial peanut is an alternative lawn and can be mulched in place. Because perennial peanut is a nitrogen-fixing legume, nitrogen is released from the plant when the vegetation is cut and returned to the soil. Because of this nutrient cycling, perennial peanut lawns require minimal fertilization compared to common turfgrass species.
Let the leaves be! Trees absorb nutrients from deep in the soil to use for their growth and development. These nutrients end up in the leaves of the trees and can be returned to the soil.
Tree leaves can be used as mulch in landscape beds, added to compost piles or mulched with your mower on your lawn. Leaves contain a lot of carbon, so they biodegrade slower than grass clippings and last a while as mulch.
Pine needles work well because they are easy to rake and look tidy in a landscape bed.
Larger leaves that may blow away may need to be weighted down to hold them in place. If you—or your neighbors—don’t like the look of tree leaf mulch, buy bags of mulch and use them to cover the tree leaves.
Tree-cycling your leaves saves money on mulch, plus adds nutrients and organic matter to your soil with minimal effort.
Chop and Drop
This is a well-known permaculture technique for composting in place. It’s pretty self-descriptive: just chop and drop clippings. This works well in more naturalized landscapes where the landscape clippings can be left on the ground to add to the mulch layer.
With their high amounts of carbon and nitrogen, clumping grasses and Fabaceae (pea) family plants are great for building your soil. Grasses have a lot of carbon and, like pine needles, make a beautiful mulch.
This strategy can be used with banana trees. When you harvest the bananas, chop and drop the leaves and banana trunk to return the nutrients and water to the plant. This is not recommended for diseased plants.
Examples of chop-and-drop grasses are sand cordgrass, muley grass, Fakahatchee grass, lemongrass and vetiver grass.
Your landscape can eventually take on forest-like properties where nutrients are slowly released into the soil, and no additional fertilization is needed.
Remember that organic matter feeds beneficial microbes that help make nutrients more available to your plants. Having beneficial microbes helps protect your yard from harmful pathogens and increases the overall health of your yard.