Leaf and Yard Waste

Yard Waste

Yard waste includes grass, leaves, small hedge or tree branches, garden trimmings, dead plants, etc. Some municipalities may have leaf and yard collection or have a local designated collection area, but SWS does not. With the exception of tree branches which go to the wood bin (see above), yard waste is treated as garbage and disposal fees apply.

Alternatives to landfill

Grasscycling occurs naturally when grass clippings are left on your lawn to decompose. Practise grasscycling to:

  • divert waste from landfill sites
  • return nitrogen and other nutrients to the lawn through the decomposition process
  • save time by not raking or bagging grass clippings

    • cut grass regularly and maintain the height of the lawn between 5 - 7 cm
    • do not cut more than 1/3 off the grass blade at one time
    • less frequent deep watering is more beneficial to lawns than more frequent surface watering

Composting Grass Clippings

Fresh grass clippings are nitrogen-rich "green" compostable material. Dried clippings are carbon rich "brown" compostable material. When adding grass clippings, follow standard composting methods. Add thin layers (no more than 10 cm) of alternating "green" and "brown" materials and top with garden soil or compost. Do not add pernicious weeds (e.g. crabgrass) or weeds in seed to your composter.

Managing Fallen Leaves Year-Round


  • mow over leaves and leave a light layer on your lawn to decompose naturally
  • dig leaves into gardens to condition the soil
  • use a 15 cm (6") layer of leaves to cover vegetable gardens and flower beds
  • store leaves in bags to use in your composter in the winter, spring and summer

    • place leaves in a garbage can and use a lawn trimming tool to shred the leaves
    • scatter over lawns, dig into gardens or save to add to your backyard composter
  • start making leaf mould (decayed leaves) from deciduous trees which in about a year's time can be used in your garden or as a top dressing for lawns

    • method 1: place wet leaves and several handfuls of soil into plastic bags, poke holes in bags to allow air circulation, regularly shake the bags, and add water as needed
    • method 2: place leaves in a simple wire-mesh enclosure and turn occasionally

Winter, Spring and Summer

  • use leaves that you put aside in the fall (see above) and add them to your backyard composter throughout the winter
  • layer leaves with your vegetable and fruit scraps to help maintain a good mix of carbon and nitrogen in your composter year-round


Many species of the walnut tree family produce a chemical called juglone that can be toxic to non-tolerant plants and often does not breakdown in a backyard composter.

© 2019 County of Wellington, 74 Woolwich St. Guelph, Ontario N1H 3T9, T 519.837.2600, TF 1.800.663.0750, F 519.837.1909