Central Valley Friendly Landscaping
University of California
Central Valley Friendly Landscaping

#4 Reduce garden waste or send less to the landfill


Reducing waste in our gardens not only helps lighten the load in our local landfills, but, long-term, can help improve our air quality and save you time and money. There are a number of gardening practices that can reduce waste.

Appropriate Lawn Care


Knowing the species of your lawn can guide you to make appropriate choices for the best lawn-care practices. Lawns make up a significant area of most people’s gardens. Modifying your current practices could create less waste and save time, water, and money.


  • Know the species of lawn planted in your garden. Each lawn species has differing water, fertilizer, and mowing needs.
  • When you mow, cut only the top 1/3 of the blades of grass. Reducing
    lawn height2
     the height by a larger amount can cause scalping and stress to the lawn. Over time, repeated severe trimmings can weaken the roots and make the lawn more susceptible to disease, weeds, and insects. Cutting only 1/3 of the blade will promote a deeper root system which will lower water use, reduce yard trimmings, and ultimately require less fertilizer and time.
  • The UC Guide to Healthy Lawns can help you identify your turf type and weeds in your lawn, and has recommendations on irrigation, mowing height, pest control, and fertilization. It also contains helpful information on renovating and installing turf.




Grasscycling can reduce waste and save time and money. Grasscycling essentially recycles or composts the cut blades of grass right onto your lawn.


  • Follow all of the maintenance recommendations for your species of lawn, mow at the proper frequency, and cut only the top 1/3 of the blades of grass.
  • Use a mulching mower, or use the mulching configuration on your current mower, if available. Rather than collecting the cut grass into the lawn mower bag, the grass blades are finely cut and dispersed onto the surface of the lawn. The fine bits of grass quickly decompose and return nutrients to the roots of the lawn.
  • Grasscycling is not recommended on overgrown or wet lawns.
  • Regular grasscycling can provide approximately 20% of the lawns’ yearly nitrogen requirement, reducing your yearly fertilizer use and costs.



Approximately 32 percent of waste hauled to California’s landfills is compostable organic material. Composting can significantly reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill. Waste from your garden (such as leaves, plant trimmings, and grass clippings) and food waste from the kitchen (such as vegetable peelings and coffee grounds) naturally decompose, eventually creating a nutrient rich amendment that can nourish your garden. Compost adds nutrients to your plants, loosens heavy soils, and increases the water-holding capacity of fine, sandy soils.


  • Dedicate a small area of your garden to a compost pile. A pile of garden and food waste, approximately three feet by three feet creates a good environment for decomposing organisms to thrive. Compost bins are available for purchase, but can easily be built. You can build a compost bin out of scrap lumber and/or wire mesh to contain the pile.

  • Your compost pile will only require occasional attention. Decomposition occurs more rapidly when the pile is slightly damp and is turned occasionally to incorporate oxygen. In our valley heat, it is advisable to locate the pile in a shady area to help conserve the pile’s moisture.
  • A properly maintained compost pile does not have a foul odor; it is full of earthworms and other micro-organisms working together to decompose organic matter into a nutrient-rich amendment you can later use in your garden.




Vermicomposting is similar to composting, but refers to the decomposition of only food waste through the use of worms (red-wrigglers). Vermicomposting is especially appropriate for those who do not have a large enough garden to accommodate a compost pile, or for those who want to dispose of their food scraps closer to the kitchen. The worms eat your fruit and vegetable scraps and provide you with nutrient dense worm castings which can be added to your plants or garden soil.



You can build your own worm bin or purchase one. You will need a worm bin, bedding, and worms to get started. Red wrigglers are most active at temperatures of 55-77 degrees. Take special care to keep the bin in a well-shaded area during our hot Central Valley summers and to protect the worms during cold winter weather.

Green-waste bin


If you cannot create a compost pile at home, or you have garden trimmings that are too large or woody to decompose in your home compost pile, use the green-waste bin that may be provided by your garbage service. Using the green bin keeps your garden waste out of the landfill and diverts it to a commercial composting operation.

What can I put in my green-waste bin?

City of Fresno

City of Clovis

Reuse and Recycle Construction Waste for Landscape Features

resuse door

Construction and demolition debris make up two percent of waste hauled to California’s landfills. Find creative ways to reuse old concrete, bricks, stone, lumber, and fixtures into pathways, garden structures, and garden art. You will save money, keep construction waste
concrete wall2
out of the landfill, and create unique one-of-a-kind items for your garden.

Right Plant Right Place


Landscape 43

Planting a large plant or tree in a small space will require frequent and excessive pruning to make it fit, producing unnecessary garden waste and stealing your valuable time doing unnecessary maintenance. Choosing the right plant for the right place will allow the tree or plant to grow to its natural size and shape with only minimal shaping and maintenance.


Before you plant, know the full-grown size of any tree, shrub, or perennial you consider planting and select a location that can accommodate it. Read the plant tag, or research plants and trees of interest in gardening books or on the internet.

More Info:

Plant Selection:

Sunset Western Garden website or book (be sure to look up the Sunset climate zone for your location)

UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars

UC Arboretum All-Stars Plant Search


Master Gardener Landscape Tree Care site with links to four Shoppers Guides to Landscape Trees

Tree Selection Guide (pdf) Tree Fresno

SelecTree Tree Selection Site Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute

Tree Care Tips  Arbor Day Foundation

Trees and Utilities quick tip (pdf)

Utility Precautions Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute

Webmaster Email: jlcangemi@ucdavis.edu