The Myth of Garden "Waste"

Garden waste is anything produced by the garden you can't use. Garden waste is a myth, because you can use everything--prunings, lawn clippings, leaves, weeds, broken branches, stumps, even whole trees that blow down.

This uprooted shore pine became mulch (needles and small branches,) a bench and a chair (trunks,) and landscaped mound (roots and butt.) The larger branches turned into firewood, but we'll find something else to do with this part of a tree when we stop burning in our wood stove.

Mulching is one of the best uses of most garden waste. Leaves and needles, branches, vegetable garden by-products, and various trimmings are rich in nutrients. They also curb weeds and conserve water. These benefits also mean they conserve time and work and money. Grass clippings can be used sparingly for mulch, especially if mixed with coarser matrials, but their best job of mulching is done right on the lawn. Weeds are also valuable fertilizer, and can often be "cooked" in a compost bin to kill the seeds. They can also be put in a pile for a few years before use.

Downed trees can be made into garden furniture and structures or left as logs to rot. Logs add interest to the landscape while they return to the soil over the years. In the process, they provide home to valuable insects, microbes, and fungi. Standing trees that die make perfect restaurants for woodpeckers, who in turn make homes for other birds. Stumps can be made into much more than the typical stump chair or placed as objects of interest throughout the garden.