Garden Essentials: Garden Waste

Gardening tasks create waste. When you maintain your garden, you find yourself with organic debris like: 

  • The weeds you pull out of your garden
  • Trimmings from pruning your plants 
  • Dead plants or plants past their prime that you pull out

We are not talking about leftover fertilizers or other garden chemicals. Those will have specific instructions on the labels for how to dispose of safely. 

We are also not talking about other supplies like old plant supports, fencing, plant protector fabrics and similar. These are to be treated like other household trash. 

You will find yourself with garden waste, and you need to dispose of it responsibly. To make your gardening experience as pleasurable, disposal should be easy and convenient. 

If your garden plot is at home, you will have to handle the garden waste yourself. 

Composting

Composting is nature's way of getting rid of plant material. Over time, the debris breaks down and becomes compost. In nature, this happens right where the debris falls and the compost layer develops right there. Over years, this becomes topsoil. 

Composting in the Community Garden

In a community garden, composting bins are usually on site. 

Be careful, though. Sometimes the garden has specific rules for using the compost bins, such as:

  • No diseased plant material 
    • No tomato plants - at the end of the season, they're almost always diseased. Plus everyone grows tomatoes. If the pathogens remain in the compost, it will impact most gardeners in the garden
  • No plant material brought from home
  • No plant material that has gone to seed
  • No woody material like branches or thick stems (sunflower, okra, etc.)

At my community garden, these rules are in place because the compost bins are relatively small, and we want the material to break down quickly. Also because the bins are small, they don't get very hot during breakdown. The process of breaking down plant material by composting creates heat! A large compost pile can generate enough heat to kill plant pathogens (fungus, bacteria, and viruses) and sterilize seeds. 

If it doesn't get hot enough, the seeds do not get sterilized and the plant pathogens. Using the compost could spread the disease, weeds and volunteer plants. Nobody wants that!

Composting at Home

If you do any gardening or yard work at your home, it will serve you well to create a compost bin or pile for your own use. 

Of course, when it's your own pile, your rules apply.

So many benefits by having your own compost bin at home!

  • Free compost
  • Reduce garden waste in the pubic waste system
  • Compost enriches the quality of your soil
  • Feed the worms - if you need worms for fishing bait, you're all set
  • Less (or no) bagging of yard waste (leaves, grass clippings, landscaping waste)
  • Free compost

Yes, I listed free compost twice! Compost gets expensive quickly an having an abundant supply on hand is so helpful. You'll find new ways to use it when you have a lot. Your yard and garden with thrive from it. 

Composting successfully is not difficult but it does take a little knowledge. There are plenty of sites online and books to help you learn how to build or buy a compost bin and fill it properly to encourage speedy effective breakdown of plant materials.

Yard Waste Collection

Many communities have yard waste collection. Garden waste can go in the yard waste. Usually there are few restrictions on what can go in the yard waste - for example, you can toss diseased plant matter in with your yard waste. 

Haul it to a Yard Waste Collection Site

Some communities offer drop off sites for yard waste. This is another viable option. Hopefully the community composts what they receive and if they have larger scale composting, it's likely the compost will heat up enough to sterilize seeds and kill most or all plant pathogens. 

Be careful when you haul, though. Plant waste often has insects and other creepy crawlies hiding within. 

Trash

Dispose of yard waste in regular household trash is unlawful in some towns and cities. Check that first.

I don't really like the idea of putting plant waste in with mixed trash collection, but it is an option. At least it helps you get rid of infected plant materials to limit spread of plant diseases. 


DIsposing of organic waste is not one of the more enjoyable aspects of gardening. However, it's a necessity. When you're planning to garden, whether at home or in a community garden, take waste management into consideration. You wouldn't want your gardening experience to be diminished because dealing with the waste is a hassle.  

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