Using Community Resources in the Garden

It has amazed me how much unwanted organic matter I’ve used in my garden. I’d like to think I’ve put recycling to a whole new level. Everything I’ve collected has been intercepted from the landfill and FREE. It’s almost unbelievable how much I’ve gotten for free, and all of it will help grow food. It does take some time to collect, but it was totally worth it.
This was inspired by Val and Eli’s garden videos I watched last year while I researched the design of my garden. I’ve discussed their garden here or more on Permaculture News here.

1 – LEAVES I lost count at about 70 bags of leaves. I put a wanted ad in a local email distribution letter which turned out to not be as effective as I’d hoped. Word of mouth from friends and family was pretty helpful. Driving around to pickup the bags some might say wasn’t very green, but the easiest was to just pick up bags of leaving while in route somewhere. One night my friend and I were looking at Christmas lights when I found a few bags of leaves on the curb. I’m sure I looked pretty silly stuffing bags of leaves in the trunk of a BMW. 
The leaves had all winter to start breaking down. I ended up reusing the paper bags that had the leaves in them. The bottoms fell apart of those that had contact with the ground. It made for better organic matter when the rain was exposed to the inside of the plastic bags. The dry leaves didn’t seem as useful. It is recommended to shred the leaves prior to adding them in the garden, but I didn’t because of the quantity. 

2 – CARDBOARD BOXES I think I’ve used about 4 full truck loads of boxes, thanks to my dad. There’s a little more labor in reusing them than I previously thought. Removing the staples and tape is pretty time consuming, but I’ve found when they are overlapped about 6″ they make the greatest weed blocker. I’d say better than newspaper.

Tape and staples are not good at breaking down. This weekend when I did a mass planting, I punched through the cardboard pretty easily only after about a month of sitting. 

3 – TREE TRIMMINGS All of the tree trimmings I’ve done this years have stayed in the backyard. (Much less work for me) I’ve also pulled over when I’ve seen good sized branches/logs on the curb. The picture is from the backseat of my car. I get some strange looks doing this, too.
The tree trimmings are part of my passive irrigation system. I’ve buried some of the trimmings to make a hugel mound and others have been buried while I was planting fruit trees. 
4 – COFFEE GROUNDS Early Saturday mornings when I want the grounds, I call up about 4-5 coffee shops and asked them to save the coffee grounds. At the end of the day, I drive around to the closest coffee shops and pick up about a 40 lb bag of used coffee grounds from each coffee shop. 
The grounds blend well into the soil after I sprinkled them around the beds. Patrick, from One Yard Revolution has a great video on benefits of used coffee grounds in the garden.
5 – STRAW BALE This is a random photo I received from my boss: Jamie, I saw these sitting in the alley and thought of you. Perfection. I think they were used in fall decoration now ready for the trash man until I saved them. 
6 – TREE MULCH I have to admit this is my proudest collection. I started calling up tree trimming companies back in January asking to dump their truck in my yard instead of taking it to the dump. I called and called and most of them said they wouldn’t until they were in my area. I had given up all hope until last Tuesday when one of the companies called from my front yard. Over 20 cubic yards of FREE mulch!
Of course it sat until Saturday when I was able to start work. Less than a week of sitting made the pile heat up. It was steaming by the time I made my way to the middle of the pile. The photo of the pile doesn’t do the size justice. You can barely see my neighbor’s head behind the pile. 
All of this collected organic matter not only was saved from the landfill, but will breakdown to help build my soil. So, it’s turned out that some things about my edible forest garden aren’t so expensive if you have the time.

“There is no waste in nature” – Geoff Lawton

credits & resources:  coffee image: // coffee in the garden: // hugelkultur: Paul Wheaton // // Geoff Lawton

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