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Greening your gardening

garden-systemWhen it comes to your garden, there are some great ways to reduce the amount of garden waste you generate. In Ireland each year, we throw out nearly 40,000 tonnes of garden waste, much of it being grass clippings.

While some of this is recovered through brown bins and civic amenity sites, most of it ends up in the landfill where it rots creating foul smells and greenhouse gases. But it also costs you time and money – time to do all this gardening and money when you have to pay to get rid of it. Here are three methods to help you cut down on the garden wastes generate.


hc-system-8Mulching or “sheet” composting mimics nature’s way of recycling nutrients within our ecosystem. Like a forest floor where leaves, twigs and branches fall to the ground and break down over time, mulch provides a layer of protection for the soil. In addition, the decaying material feeds the ecosystem of microorganisms, worms and insects allowing this diverse community of organisms to thrive. As the materials break down further, nutrients are released and become available to plants within the soil. Mulch is often used in garden paths but more often around perennial shrubs and trees to suppress weed growth, hold in soil moisture, prevent erosion and slowly release nutrients to the soil.

Suitable Materials: Shredded brushy materials such as tree trimmings or shrub prunings, leaves, grass cuttings and unscreened compost.

Main Advantages:

  • Mulching is ideal for people with lots of shrubs and trees.
  • Use of mulch cuts down on weeding and watering work.
  • Provides a welcome habitat for birds and other wildlife. Mulch is any substance placed on top of the soil to protect it and keep weeds down – it’ll make your life easier around the garden

For more information check out our Mulching leaflet.

Leaf Mould

With nothing added but time, fallen autumn leaves make a lovely composted product called leaf mould. Simply collect them and pile them in a wire mesh enclosure to stop them from blowing away, or gather them in bags when the leaves are moist and leave the bags loosely piled. They do not need to be turned or have any green materials added – they will decompose in their own by the action of fungi and other decomposing organisms.


Suitable Materials: leaves, leaves and more leaves!

Main Advantages:

  • Leaf mould is low in nutrients and mixed with compost, sand and soil makes a great potting compost.
  • It is also an excellent soil improver due to its crumbly texture.
  • Leaf mould tends to be acidic (though how acidic depends on the type of tree from which the leaves came) so it should be good for acid-loving plants.
  • Leaves (shredded is best) also make a good mulch around your trees, shrubs, and perennial plants.

Finally, leaves can also be stored near your compost bin or pile, so that you have a ready source of browns when you are composting grass, weeds, or other greens in the spring and summer (see Mixing Greens and Browns). Simply mix an equal quantity of leaves with your greens, be sure to add moisture if needed and then place the mix in your compost bin or pile.


hc-system-9GrassCycling is the natural recycling of grass by leaving grass clippings on the lawn when mowing. Once on the ground, the clippings, which contain 80-85% water, decompose quickly returning valuable nutrients like nitrogen back into the soil. However, there is a little more to GrassCycling than that. You may need to de-thatch and aerate your lawn every year or two to ensure that it works properly. But remember, leaving cuttings on your lawn all season long provides the same level of nutrients as one fertiliser application per year. GrassCycling is simple, easy and it works!

Suitable Materials: Any lawn area.

Main Advantages:

  • If you have a large lawn, GrassCycling will significantly reduce the amount of materials you are handling for collection or for home composting.
  • The cuttings reduce the need for both water and expensive fertiliser.
  • People who GrassCycle, spend up to one third less time cutting their lawns but remember, don’t cut your grass too short. You leave it a bit longer than normal so the clippings are not too big.

For more information check out our GrassCycling leaflet and here is a case study from a GrassCycling Pilot project from Killorglin, Co. Kerry.

Garden Design


As they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and in the case of garden waste, it is especially true. Preventing and reducing landscape waste requires a whole new way of thinking – and this doesn’t just involve lots of concrete! The question to be considered is: How can I design and manage my garden to minimize waste in the first place? For more on green garden design check out our Garden Design brochure.