Top Tips for Dealing with Garden Waste

With most people spending a lot more time at home and in their gardens as the country responds to the current Covid-19 virus pandemic there's no better time to start home composting. And with with local councils all over the UK being forced to suspend garden waste collection services, many people will be wanting to know how to deal with the surplus of organic waste from their gardens. Here are a few simple tips to help you manage your garden and kitchen waste at home, to benefit your garden and to make sure it doesn't take up valuable space in the rubbish bin.

 

Grass Clippings

Grass clippings breakdown very quickly in a compost bin or heap but if you have a large lawn you may have too much for your compost bin to cope with (it can become anaerobic and slimey if not mixed with other compostable materials). An easy way to deal with it is to remove the collection box on your lawnmower and leave lawn clippings on the lawn as you cut it. These will act as a layer of mulch, adding nutrients directly to your lawn and will help prevent it 'yellowing' especially in prolonged dry spells. 


Grass Clippings and Cardboard

If like most households you are more reliant on home deliveries, its likely you will have a good supply of cardboard to deal with. If so Grass Boarding might be the thing for you. Not the extreme sport where you hurtle down a mountainside on a skateboard - it's the simple composting technique where you layer grass clippings and cardboard, like a lasagne!

It's a great way of dealing with large quantities of grass clippings and that excess cardboard and very easy to do. If you have the space you can use this method on open ground to form a heap, enclose it in a wooden frame to keep it tidier or if you only have small quantities try making it in a standard compost bin.  

compost bins image of crass clippings

Simply:

  1. Alternate layers of cardboard (or paper) and grass.
  2. Spread the grass layer about one to two inches deep and then place a layer of carboard on the grass. Repeat after each mow.
  3. Corrugated cardboard is ideal but discarded paper towels from the home could be used, as can any of the usual paper materials normally added to the compost bin.
  4. If a compost bin is used the paper should be torn up and crumpled to assist with the aeration of the material  but large sheets of cardboard can be used on open heaps.
  5. Don't press it down - you do not want the grass layers squashed as this will stop the air flow which will result in a smelly mess. 
  6. Keep layering but do not mix the material as you might in small compost bin/heap.

If your grass board pile isn't very large or if you are using a standard compost bin then this isn’t the quickest compost you’ll ever make, but it will produce quality weed free compost - great for using in pots or around the rest of the garden - so it’s worth the wait!

grass board pile image

No Dig Gardening is, as the name suggests a low-impact approach to gardening which uses natural mulches to suppress weeds and avoids breaking up the natural soil struture by over-cultivating. It's also a really good way to use up your excess cardboard. One No Dig method involves 'sheet mulching' where an area designated for planting is covered over to exclude light, with large sheets of cardboard or several thicknesses of spread out newspaper. This is then covered with a layer of compost and finally topped off with bark or a similar landscaping mulch. The newspaper or cardboard should be  wet to keep it flat and in place until the top layers are added. Find out how to get started here


Woody prunings to encourage wildlife

Create a simple deadwood pile with woody garden material (& leaf fall) to encourage a diversity of wildlife into your garden. Suffolk Wildlife Trust have plenty of ideas on how to make your garden more wildlife friendly using every day household items and garden materials - check them out here.

Dead-hedging is a bit more involved but does make good use of the woodier material in your garden - ideal if you have a large garden with plenty of trees and larder shrubs.


Vegetable peelings, fruit waste and other organic kitchen waste

In the absence of a home compost bin you can literally dig a hole and bury organic uncooked kitchen waste and leafy garden waste. Compost Trenching will help build up the soil’s nutrient and organic matter content. This approach has some great advantages, you don't need a bin or container or any tools other than a shovel! It also keeps out smells and shouldn't encourage unwelcome visitors if the materials are buried at least 45 cm (18”) deep and given a good covering with garden soil. You can trench compost at any time of the year - if you do it in autumn your soil is likely to be ready for spring planting. 

How to do it:

1. Dig a hole or trench in your garden 45-60 cm (18- 24”) deep and as wide and long as is practical -- a shovel’s width is usually fine. Pile the soil up beside your trench - you will need to use it later.

2. Fill the bottom 15 cm (6”) of your trench with your food waste and organic materials (avoid woody material as this will take too long to break down). Make sure the materials are moist before you bury them. Cover the trench with the excavated soil, there needs to be at least 30- 45 cm (12-18”) of soil on top of them.

3. Cover the area of soil with a layer of organic mulch material (i.e. leaves or straw). Alternatively, you can also sow a cover crop to protect the soil from the elements and suppress weeds in the time it takes for the trenched materials to decompose.

In well-drained, sandier soils material in a compost trench should break down completely over the course of 2-3 months but in heavier clay soils it could take up to a year. Make sure you use a system to mark where you have buried your kitchen scraps so you do not dig them up accidentally!


Used coffee grounds

coffee grounds

Used coffee grounds are ideal as a compost bin ingredient but you can also use them as a light mulch or fertiliser as they are rich in nitrogen and phosphorus

  • Try drying these out and putting them out as a mulch around tender plants - the snails seem to hate them - but not too many as they are quite acidic.
  • You could also try applying thinly on the lawn as a fertiliser. Working in patches, aim to gradually feed the desired area around once a month.

A good search online will bring up many more ideas for managing your garden sustainably but if you know of any other clever ways to make use of garden waste please email them to us here (and please send instructions, your pictures or even videos!) We will add a selection of the best ideas to this page so keep checking over the coming weeks!