In Southeast Texas, when those first crisp Autumn breezes send yellow elm and crunchy brown oak leaves swirling on driveways, and squirrels chase each other through the trees, many breathe a sigh of relief that the dog days of summer might actually be behind them. The days are shorter, the shadows longer. It is the favorite time of year for many Houstonians, who are eager to participate in outdoor activities.

With the grass growing season coming to an end, there’s still lots to do in the yard and garden to get it ready for Spring. One of the most productive of these activities is to start a composting program...take advantage of all those leaves and pine straw and “cook up” a batch of mulch that will give your flower beds and landscape areas a real boost. It isn’t difficult and the payoff can be spectacular.

Not only is it great for your lawn and garden, composting helps with one of the nation’s most critical environmental problems. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that grass clippings, leaves, and tree or shrub prunings account for almost 20 percent of “household trash” and perhaps as much as 50 percent in Summer and Fall months. Landfill sites are rapidly filling up, and an increasing number of people across the country have made the commitment to recycle just about everything... aluminum, paper, plastic, household scraps, and yard debris.

In addition to helping with the landfill crisis, composting offers another, very practical benefit. When rich compost mulch is used in flower beds and landscape areas, it holds in the moisture and cuts down on the amount of water needed to keep the plants healthy. Compost also breaks up clay soils, serving as a safeguard against erosion. And it adds structure and moisture to sandy soils, which can allow landscaping of otherwise undesirable planting areas.

Compost improves soil aeration, which enables vital oxygen to boost soil productivity. Finally, virtually all plants grown in compost-enriched soils are healthier and are better prepared to fight off assaults from insects and diseases. So, with all these benefits and with the cost of water going up, composting can save both water and money!

   

“Every year more than five million tons of yard trimmings and other organic materials end up in Texas landfills instead of building up the soil. Disposing of all this organic matter in landfills costs more than $150 million a year!”

 

“Millions of gallons of city-treated water are used to irrigate landscapes where native vegetation once grew in naturally mulched soil, sustained by rainfall.”

“To compensate for the loss of nutrients, homeowners purchase costly synthetic fertilizers and pesticides for their lawns. Runoff of these chemicals can pollute both ground and surface water supplies.”

Texas Water Development Board