Protect Our Waterways

Did you know that grass clippings and tree leaves are considered a source of pollution when washed directly into storm drains?

Any material swept or blown into neighborhood streets and curb inlets along our city streets enter storm drains. The storm drains carry that waste material to one of our creeks here in Arlington.

Too many grass clippings and leaves cloud the water and block the sunlight that is essential to aquatic life. And, as they decompose, can lower the oxygen content of the water which can also harm fish and other living things.

Feed Your Lanscape… Not The Landfill

An estimated 20% of waste generated by Texans comes from grass clippings, tree leaves and other landscape wastes. Bagging these materials and placing them into the curbside garbage collection system uses valuable landfill space, removes nutrients from the environment, and costs cities and the people of Texas more in increased taxes and service fees.

red maple leafFallen leaves represent a valuable natural resource that can be used to provide a good source of organic matter and nutrients for use in a landscape. Leaves contain 50-80% of the nutrients a plant extracts from the soil and air during the growing season.

In forests, pastures, and other natural settings, tree leaves and other organic wastes form a natural carpet over the soil surface which conserves moisture, moderates temperatures, and prevents soil erosion and crusting. In time, bacteria, fungi, and other natural occurring organisms, supply the existing soil with a natural, slow release form of nutrients.


Compost is a dark, crumbly and earthy - smelling form of organic matter that has gone through a natural decomposition process.

Don't trash your pizza boxes. Recycle or compost them instead! To recycle your pizza boxes or compost them, make sure to remove all food residue and as much grease as possible. Place in your recycle cart or better yet, compost that box! To compost your pizza box, remove all non-compostable food residue and tear it into smaller pieces. To make tearing the pizza box easier, feel free to wet it with a garden hose first. The cardboard serves as great brown material just like dried leaves. Place in compost bin or pile and follow compost recipe below.


Elm Leaves

A light covering of leaves can be mowed without the catch-bag, leaving shredded leaves in place on the lawn. This technique is most effective when a mulching mower is used. During times of light leaf drop, or if there are only a few small trees in your landscape, this technique is the most efficient and easiest way to manage leaf accumulation.


Mulching is a simple and effective way to recycle leaves and improve your landscape. As organic mulch decomposes, valuable nutrients are released for use by landscape plants.

Leaves can be used as mulch in vegetable gardens, flowerbeds, and around shrubs and trees. As an option to raking, a lawnmower, with the catch-bag, provides a fast and easy way to shred and collect the leaves. Leaves that have been mowed or run through a shredder, will decompose faster and are more likely to remain in place than un-shredded leaves.

Around the base of trees and shrubs apply a 3-6 inch layer of shredded leaves.

In annual or perennial flowerbeds apply a 2-3 inch mulch of shredded leaves.

For vegetable gardens a thick layer of leaves between the rows functions as a mulch and as an all-weather walkway.

Soil Improvement

Leaves may be collected and worked directly into garden and flowerbed soils. A 6-8 inch layer of leaves tilled into a heavy, clay soil will improve aeration and drainage. The same amount tilled into a light, sandy soil will improve water and nutrient holding capacity. In vegetable gardens and annual planting beds, collect and work leaves into the soil during the Fall. This allows sufficient time for the leaves to decompose prior to Spring planting.

Benefits of Composting

Compost is a dark, crumbly and earthy - smelling form of organic matter that has gone through a natural decomposition process.

Benefits of Composting

  • Reduces Solid Waste - Compost yard waste instead of sending it to a landfill.
  • Improves Soil Quality - Compost helps protect soil from erosion and compaction.
  • Improves Water Quality - Compost helps make yards and gardens healthier without using chemicals that may pollute groundwater, creeks, streams, and lakes.
  • Conserves Water - Compost improves soil so that water penetrates more easily and stays in the soil longer which means less watering.
  • Fertilizes Soil - Compost feeds and nourishes the plants AND the soil.

Easy Compost Recipe

  1. Choose a 4-foot by 8-foot area, preferably shaded, where water does not collect when it rains.
  2. Cover half the area with a 6-inch layer of leaves. Water thoroughly.
  3. Add a 2-inch layer of grass clippings and/or fruit and vegetable scraps and a dash of soil.
  4. Mix this layer into the layer below it using a hoe or a cultivator. Water thoroughly.
  5. Top with a 2-inch layer of leaves.
  6. Repeat steps 3 through 5 as ingredients are available. (Note: The top layer of the completed pile should be at least 4 inches of leaves covering all food materials. Build pile to 3 feet high as soon as you can.)
  7. Turn the whole pile over with a hay fork or shovel every 2 to 3 weeks, adding water as needed to make the whole pile moist (similar to a wrung-out sponge).
  8. Compost is well done when most of the original ingredients have broken down and when it smells like rich soil.

Prepared in cooperation with the Texas Cooperative Extension Tarrant County Office.