What grows in the yard, stays in the yard.
This is a primary principle of a sustainable yard. The plants take up nutrients from the soil as they grow and the soil needs these nutrients, so we don't throw them away. When we add the plants back in, we're building the health of the soil with the nutrients and organic matter it needs to produce healthy plants and retain moisture. Keeping water on the land is one of the most important things we can do to improve Earth health, and keeping plants on the soil is one of the best ways to do that.
1. Mulch grass into lawn.
2. Mulch leaves into lawn. You may need to mow often as leaves are falling, but most yards can handle all the leaves that fall given frequent mowing. (Don't skip the jumping in the leaves fun! Just spread them back out to mow.)
3. Place mulched or whole leaves under trees or hedges to compost.
4. Compost all yard waste (and kitchen scraps) you want into a compost pile in your yard, or place branches and twigs in low lying contours of your yard to create unmowed "islands" to regenerate the soil.
5. The gardens? Just let them sit over winter. You can plant around them in the spring or bury the tops in the ground. How easy is that?
6. A chipper-shredder is great to make your own mulch out of sticks and branches in your yard and to make big piles of yard waste into mulch in short order.
7. Kitchen scraps can be placed in a low-lying areas you'd like to fill, in the garden, or anywhere you'd like nutrients in the soil. Place mulch or other yard waste on top, and you'll have great soil come springtime.
8. Place logs or branches on the ground or into a trench dug into the ground to create a hugelkultur bed. Read more about Hugelkultur beds here. Place soil within and on top of wood to cover by about 6 inches. The rotting wood provides nutrients for the soil and plants and holds water to provide the moisture needed by the plants.