Photo courtesy Flickr
Woody plants build soil quickly as they compost. Use foot traffic to break down small diameter sticks, the ones too big to mulch safely with the mower and too small to chop into kindling using a sharp hatchet and a notch on a stump. Turn a layer of small wood into mulch by strewing it artfully in a traffic area. This is a medieval technique. Back in the day, barns were mucked out into the yard each morning and cattle set to trample the dirty straw. I first tried this technique with sticks and children, and it worked just fine in spite of their soft-soled shoes. A muddy path is a good spot to set up.
In thirty years of managing this property, we have taken only two loads of garden waste to the dump. There are areas in the yard where the soil is more than a foot deeper than it was in 1980. Last spring, I mixed leftover vegetable seeds and broadcast them in one of these places, just to see what would happen when such highly bred plants were left to fend for themselves. Not much, it turns out, especially since I don’t water anything but fruit trees and containers, but a little patch of greens emerged, and I transplanted them into patented growing bins. One lettuce was too big to move, and it gave us good salads from soil that was bone dry from record heat but pure compost to start with.
Every time there’s a pruning job, I grumble and think it would be easier just to set out bundles of waste for the city to haul away. Repeatedly, I learn that the fastest, cheapest, and greenest way to deal with yard waste is simply to take the time to process it with sharp tools and use it myself. A reciprocating power saw makes short work of large branches.
Sticks become fertilizer, weed-blocking mulch, and barbeque fuel. The small amount of time it takes to manage them is less trouble than mushing out to buy the products they replace, and less trouble than making the money to pay to get rid of them. A year’s stock of prunings takes up little space in a corner of the garage. Paper yard waste bags are porous enough to let things dry, strong enough not to tear, and frustrate bugs and vermin that would otherwise set up housekeeping. It only takes two or three bags to hold the season’s harvest of small wood.
-30- More after the jump.