Government of Nova Scotia Government of Nova Scotia Nova Scotia, Canada


Recycling and Waste

Composting Yard Trimmings and Leaves

About one third of all our garbage is organic material like leaves, grass clippings and garden waste. Organics cause problems in landfills when they are exposed to water and form a liquid called leachate. Leachate picks up contaminants from the other garbage and can pollute neighbouring water resources if it escapes from the landfill site. Keeping organics out of landfills is one way to reduce environmental risks. With a few simple measures, we can easily keep yard trimmings, grass clippings and leaves out of landfills.

What Are "Yard Trimmings"?

The term refers to grass clippings, lawn rakings, leaves and organic material pulled out of the garden. It does not include organics from restaurants, kitchensor food processing plants. Yard trimmings are generally easier to handle and compost than other organics.


"Grasscycling" is a way to reduce lawn maintenance work, reduce waste to be handled and improve the health of your lawn. The idea is to manage the lawn so that grass clippings don't need to be raked up and bagged. The lawn is left to grow slightly longer (about 5 to 7 cm) and cut more frequently. No more than one third of the blade should be cut. The result is less stress on the lawn and less susceptibility to disease and drought. And if you think mowing a lawn more often is more work, it is actually easier to go through a light mowing than to cut through thick grass.

Direct Application Of Leaves

Leaves can be used in any area in your garden as a mulch. Mulching around plants in a home garden helps retain the soil's moisture and reduces weeds. It also may be possible to use leaves on agricultural crop land. Under the right conditions this can be a benefit to both the householder who gets rid of the leaves and the farmer who receives valuable nutrients for his crops. If you live near a farm, discuss the idea of direct application of your leaves with the farmer.

Municipal Programs

Many municipalities across Nova Scotia already have or will be developing yard trimmings and leaf collection and composting programs. These programs may include regular or seasonal collection of material or a location for residents to drop off material. Contact your local municipality for more information.

Back Yard Composting

Composting is the natural decomposition of plant and vegetable material by microorganisms. We help the process by supplying the right ingredients of material, temperature, air and moisture. The result is a rich soil like humus that is great for your garden or lawn. Nearly everyone can make compost in their own backyard. The process is simple, easy and produces great benefits if you follow a few basic principles.


Like any recipe, the right ingredients are required. "Browns" like leaves or straw and "Greens" like grass clippings and produce trimmings are mixed in about equal amounts or adjusted depending on the type of material you have available. Shredding or chopping, while not essential, increases the surface area available to the microorganisms. That helps speed the composting process.

Volume and Temperature

The composting process generates a lot of heat. A minimum volume is required to retain this heat. A volume of about 1 cubic meter of material in a compost pile is ideal. A larger pile is harder to handle and a smaller pile becomes less efficient.

Moisture and Aeration

Composting organisms need air and moisture to survive. Turn the pile regularly and make sure the material in it doesn't pack too tightly in order to allow air to circulate throughout the pile. The right amount of moisture is required. The material should feel like a damp sponge. Add water to dry compost or more material to absorb excess moisture as required.

Composter Containers

Composting can be done in simple piles in the backyard or in bins, either home built or commercially manufactured. Home made bins can be made from wire mesh, hardware cloth, plastic snow fencing, wooden slats or barrels with holes for aeration. Commercial composters are widely available from garden supply centres or through some municipally sponsored programs.

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