6 Eco-Friendly Ways to Dispose of Plant Remnants

Reader Contribution by Katie Kuchta

If you’re an avid gardener or simply enjoy maintaining a neat and tidy lawn, you, without a doubt, have wondered what to do with plant remnants once you’ve clipped or trimmed them. While leaving these remnants on your lawn to rot may seem tempting, it can be detrimental in that decomposing plants produce mold and fungus, which can make you sick.

Luckily, there are countless other eco-friendly ways to dispose of plant remnants, so that you can help the planet while keeping your lawn looking fresh and tidy.

Photo by Adobe Stock/prophoto24

1. Compost It

Composting is one of the easiest, and most ecologically friendly, ways to improve your soil and to dispose of old plant pieces. You don’t need any special equipment or building in which to place your plant remnants. Just make sure your compost pile is a decent space away from the house–it can start to smell if you add in other organic matter, such as kitchen waste.

Compile all of your discarded leaves, grass clippings, or plants. Make sure the pile is not too big, as you’ll need to be able to turn it with a rake or pitch fork. Keep the pile moist and turn it with the fork every few weeks to allow air to permeate through the mix. It should be broken down and ready to use as garden or potting soil within just a few months

2. Mulch It

You can use whole plant pieces, pine needles, leaves, or grass clippings as mulch if you need to, but a better way to dispose of plant pieces is to break them down into fine, uniform shavings by using the mulching setting on your mower. Mulch like this is great to use in flower beds or around trees.

If you decide to pursue this option, make sure you’ve allowed the plant pieces to “cure” in the sun for a few weeks to kill any seeds. If there are any living seeds still remaining in the mixture, you risk introducing unwanted weeds to your flower bed or garden.

3. Turn It Into Fireplace Fuel

While this should be done with caution–you should never burn plant matter outdoors when there is an active burn ban, or when it simply seems too dry–there is nothing wrong with burning plant matter if it is serving a distinct purpose. If you own a wood-burning fireplace—leaves, twigs, and other pieces of plants are a great way to get fires started. You don’t want to overdo it, as decomposing plants can harbor allergens such as mold that can make you sick if burned to excess.

4. Artfully Repurpose It

This can be tough, and isn’t a good bet for large amounts of plant remnants. However, if you have just a few odds and ends you need to get rid of you can save them for arts and crafts projects. Dried leaves make great additions to festive autumn decor, while dried flowers and stems make heavenly scented potpourri.

5. Run It Through a Wood Chipper

If you are dealing with a lot of woody plant remnants, such as large branches, consider renting or buying a wood chipper. This is more suitable for heavy pieces, but is a great option for turning large amounts of yard waste into usable wood chips for walkways, garden beds, animal bedding, and other projects.

6. Yard Waste Pick-Up

This may not be an option depending on your location, but some towns have regular yard waste pick-up dates. These services allow you to simply rake your debris in a pile and then collect it into a designated bag. These bags are then brought to yard waste recycling centers, which grind the branches, brush, and leaves into usable mulch and resell it later on.

Don’t harm the environment by throwing your plant waste in the trash can. As it is, each human generates several pounds of waste each day—most of which cannot be, or simply is not, recycled. Dispose of your plant remnants by returning them to their natural state and breathe easy knowing that you have helped contribute to a healthier planet.

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