Dear Recyclebank: How can I recycle underbrush? –Harry Dill
Dear Harry: There are two main options for responsibly recycling your underbrush and grass clippings. If you want to donate your underbrush, many municipalities, such as Phoenix, AZ, provide yard waste pickup for residents. The underbrush is then composted or recycled. Note: Yard trimmings that are thrown into a landfill have the unfortunate bi-product of producing the potent greenhouse gas methane, making recycling that much more important. Keeping your yard trimmings out of the garbage is the right thing to do.
If you choose to recycle your underbrush on your own, you’ll want to designate a space in your yard where you can place it. Leaves, bark, branches, and twigs, along with pruning from trees and grass clippings, offer a rich collection of formally living ingredients you can recycle into valuable compost and mulch.
Composting — the decomposition of underbrush and backyard trimmings — provides biologically active matter, which conditions and offers nutrients to the soil. Composted underbrush and yard trimmings can be mixed in with garden soil prior to planting. When composting, remember to turn the pile; if the pile is damp, add dark stalks or leaves, conversely, if the pile is too dry, simply add water to keep the pile moist.
Mulch — the suppression of weeds — not only moderates soil temperatures and maintains moisture, it also conserves water, and allows a porous surface, which helps to prevent soil erosion. Mulch can be sorted into organic and inorganic: Organic mulch includes formally living materials such as bark, leaves, twigs, grass, etc., whereas inorganic mulch includes rocks, wood chips, and plastic. The benefit of organic mulch is that it is filled with biologically compatible bacteria that cooperate with microorganisms found in soil, naturally improving the soil structure.
Implementing a few simple rituals into your yard maintenance can reduce underbrush and yard trimmings. Here are some additional ideas:
1. Add your composted material to indoor potting soil. A key component to a successful outcome is porosity (the amount of space between pieces of a material); a general rule to achieve this is to add one part soil to two parts compost. This may vary depending on the plant’s humidity and light-exposure requirements.
2. Allow leaves to fall where they may. Depending on the amount of underbrush you have, and your personal aesthetic, you might consider allowing nature to undergo its natural cyclic process by allowing leaves to fall and decompose naturally.
3. Reduce your tree pruning. You can counterbalance the extra shade by selecting shade-tolerant ground layer plants for those areas.
4. Grow native plants. Plants that grow in their natural environment have an easier time adapting to local climate, provide a source of food and shelter for native insects and animals, and offer natural defenses against pests.
Recycling underbrush is a wonderful way to follow nature’s cycles. Your yard will reflect a lush quality when you integrate recycling techniques into your maintenance habits. Composting is an eco-friendly solution to the question of what to do with all those yard trimmings.