5 Ways to Recycle Garden Waste
This last year’s food and supply disruptions had many Californians looking for ways to produce food in and around their homes. Garden plots, balcony tomatoes, and indoor hydroponics are springing up all over and becoming a common sight.
It does not matter if your garden is the traditional in-ground plot, vertical gardens, grow bags on the balcony, or indoor hydroponics grow towers. There will be waste – broken leaves, tired soil, stems, the food you didn’t harvest fast enough, and more.
Why is that a Problem?
Organic waste like food scraps, yard trimmings, paper, and cardboard make up half of what California dumps into its landfills. When this organic matter breaks down, stinky and dangerously flammable methane is produced as a byproduct of the decomposition process.
Methane is a super pollutant that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Plants use carbon dioxide as part of their respiration cycle (think plant breathing). Not so with methane. It stays around and displaces the oxygen we need. That is bad news for those with health conditions like asthma and COPD.
What Can You Do?
In 2016, California enacted law goals to reduce waste and methane emissions by 75% by 2025[i]. Per CalRecycle, California’s Department of Resources, Recycling, and Recovery, landfills are the third-largest source of methane in California.
Half of what goes into the landfills comes from organic waste that you can easily remove from the waste cycle.
Here are five (5) ways to recycle garden waste:
- Compost it
- Mulch it
- Start a composting program or business
- Hire Viking Property Services to haul it away when your city trash man won’t
The advantages of composting are huge! Instead of buying compost every year, make it instead.
It is super easy to start and doesn’t mind if you neglect it. You can add your kitchen scraps and yard trimmings into a pile in the far corner of your yard, a compost bin, or a barrel tumbler. Then let it rot.
If you go with a pile or bin, I recommend selecting an out-of-the-way spot where nothing grows and won’t become an eyesore for you or your neighbors.
I used old wood pallets, some screws, some hinges, and an old slide lock to make a quick “fence” to keep it looking tidy. You can use whatever you want.
Do not put any fats, dairy, or meat in your compost pile. Adding these creates foul odors and invites nasty critters into the compost – unless you want to smell stinky methane and deal with disease-carrying rats.
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to recycle garden waste is to use your yard trimmings as mulch.
Mulch is a layer of material used as a covering over exposed soil. Covering the soil keeps it cooler, suppresses weed invasions, and prevents wind erosion. If using biodegradable materials, the natural decomposition process revives and enriches the soil.
In addition, mulched soil holds water better and longer. You save money by watering less but with greater efficiency. It also buffers the soil surface from water run-off damage.
The best options are to use wood chips, pine bark, leaves, straw, grass clippings from around your house. As they break down, the nutrients used to create them will return to the earth.
Add no more than 4 inches but no less than 2 inches of your yard clippings around your favorite plants! Go out as far as the drip line and avoid mulch volcanoes (aka tree killers).
Remember the 2-inch mulch rule: 2 inches deep and 2 inches away from the trunks of trees and shrubs to avoid plant rot. Then add more as the yard clippings decompose.
Do not mulch over your newly planted seeds. Don’t add to the seed’s struggle to reach the sunlight. Wait to mulch until they are a few inches high.
- Never use black walnut wood chips as they are toxic to humans, animals, and other plants.
- Manufactured or artificially colored mulch as they add dangerous dyes and chemicals to your garden.
One of the most trendy ways to recycle your garden waste is vermiculture.
Vermiculture employs worms to eat your garbage. They poop out quality fertilizers called worm castings that you “harvest” and use on your plants.
Worms are not demanding. However, they do have basic needs to meet for them to turn your garbage into rich, black “gold”.
To create a healthy environment for your new “employees”, you need to buy a worm bin or make your own.
I recommend the vertical systems where you add equal amounts of paper/cardboard (brown) and food scraps (green) to bins to feed your employees. As the bins fill up, add another bin on top.
The bins have holes in them. The worms will travel up to eat the food and leave their castings behind.
When all the food is not visible in a bin, and all the worms have moved up, it is time to “harvest”. Fully processed worm castings will smell like rich soil. Scrape the worm castings from the bottom tray into a 5-gallon bucket with a lid. Keep in a dark place.
To use, add 1 quart of worm castings to 5 gallons of water. Stir. Let sit for at least 30 minutes – overnight is best. Then use the mixture to water all plants as an all-purpose fertilizer that won’t burn but packs a vitamin punch!
Start a Local Composting Program or Business
Want a way to recycle your garden waste and make a living?
Create a composting service for your community.
A compost service is where the community donates their food scraps to a composting center instead of going to the local landfill. Once composted, this rich natural soil is sold back to the community.
Usually, the compost service provides each customer a countertop compost bin, a 5-gallon bucket, and a bio bag a week for a relatively low subscription price – some as low as $40 a month. These buckets are left on the doorstep for collection once a week. The bins are then picked up and exchanged with a new clean bin and a new bio bag.
There are many ways to set this up.
- Start your own green business
- Start a compost program at your community garden
- Get your city government involved
A lot of these composting services use worms to accelerate the decomposition process to minimize methane output.
Hire Professionals to Remove the Debris
Want to start a garden but have a lot of old project leftovers in the way?
Viking Property Services can help. Let us clean it up for you. Once you have that clean slate, make your garden dreams a reality.
Know that if the old clutter can be recycled or re-purposed, it will. The rest is appropriately disposed of.
We never put our customers at risk for a hefty fine and jail time by illegally dumping the collected items.
How Can I Get Started?
Call or text us for a no-obligation quote at (209) 872-0323.
To get a quick quote, take a few pictures of what you’d like us to pick up and text them to (209) 872-0323. We will get back to you with an estimate based on what we see.
We offer “Zero Contact Hauling”, curbside, driveway, yard, or garage pick up to help keep you and your family safe.
Don’t forget to share the pictures of your garden with us. We love to see projects we worked on getting a new life!
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