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Extension > Garden > Yard and Garden > Soils > Composting and mulching: a guide to managing organic yard wastes

Composting and mulching: a guide to managing organic yard wastes

Composting is a microbial process that converts plant materials such as grass clippings and leaves to a more usable organic soil amendment or mulch. Gardeners have used compost for centuries to increase soil organic matter, improve soil physical properties, and supply some of the essential nutrients for plant growth. Mulching refers to the practice of applying a layer of materials such as compost, leaves, or grass clippings to the soil surface in order to modify soil temperature and moisture as well as control weeds and soil erosion.

Because many communities ban outdoor burning and have laws that prohibit dumping of leaves and grass clippings into landfills, composting and mulching have become attractive ways to manage yard waste and recycle natural materials. Grass clippings and leaves can be hauled to city composting areas as one means of disposal. However, many homeowners may find it more convenient and economical to compost these materials in their own backyards. In either case, the finished compost can be used as a mulch or as a soil amendment to improve most garden soils. The information in this bulletin will help you learn how to build and maintain a compost pile as well as how to use the compost in the yard and garden.

This project was originally supported by a grant from the Metropolitan Council, 300 Metro Square, 7th and Robert Streets, St. Paul, MN 55101.

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