Yard Waste and the Landfill
It used to be easy to deal with yard waste. You just raked it up and sent it off to the landfill. Those days are gone and we have learned that the best way to garden is to use organic methods. Many towns and cities will still collect your yard waste, but instead of sending it to the landfill, the city sends it to a compost center. The best towns let you send yard waste and pick up the mulch and compost that they create from it. The problem with that is you do not know what chemicals that other homeowners used on the clippings and leaves that they pick up from around town. If you want to have a true organic garden, you need to know what they used to make your mulch.
Types of Plant Waste
Plant waste is anything that was once a plant. That sounds simple but people do not tend to think of everything that it includes. Paper, kitchen waste, garden waste, and tree branches are all included.
If you get junk mail or the newspaper, you will have a ready supply of plant waste to start with. Junk mail can be a bit dicey though, you cannot be sure how the company manufactured it or what ink they used. The good thing about many companies is that they are jumping on the organic bandwagon. They want to be organic and they will attempt to use soy ink or recycled paper to please their customers. If you are unsure about what went into your paper products, just call and ask. If they do not use organic methods, ask that they consider changing. If enough people call and ask they just might get the message.
Weeds can be a little tricky to use as mulch. You need to get them early and you need to make sure that they are all the way dead before tossing them into the garden bed. Some weeds, such as dandelions, will just start growing wherever you throw them. You also want to make sure that they do not have any seeds on them. Pulling them before they go to seed is the best way to get a handle on those pesky weeds.
Once a plant has finished its growing cycle, you can cut it back and use the old plant as mulch. Annuals, for example: start from seed, grow, flower, and die all in one season. Once an annual plant has finished flowering it does no good to continue growing it. Just pull it up and dispose of it by composting it or simply burying it into the garden soil.
If you have mature trees in your yard, you have a fantastic source of mulch. This is a good cheap mulch option for gardeners who are a little strapped for cash. Just run over them with a lawnmower, collect the shredded leaves, and add them directly on top of the garden bed. This technique is quick, cheap, and easy – just how I like my garden tasks.
Why Mulch the Garden
People mulch their gardens to enrich the soil, keep the weeds down, and conserve water.
How to Mulch to Enrich the Soil
When organic mulch is place on the soil it slowly decomposes. How slowly depends on the type of mulch used. As the mulch decomposes, it becomes compost and any gardener worth of the title knows that compost is a necessity in the garden. This compost can just hang out on the surface and worms and your garden tasks will work it in.
Mulch as a Weed Barrier
A thick layer of mulch works as an organic weed barrier. If you put down a four- inch layer of mulch, not many weed seeds will be able to germinate and penetrate this layer. Synthetic mulches will do the same thing but they do not help the soil and can cause problems when you are planting.
Mulching to Conserve Water
Fresh water is a precious commodity in the world. If you leave your soil bare, the wind and sun will dry the soil out. If you are constantly watering your garden because you leave it exposed to the elements, you will be wasting water and money. I do not know about you but my water bill does not need to be any higher. I will use my cheap mulch and save my money at the same time.
Using Compost as Mulch
If you do not like the looks of old plants tossed around the garden, a compost pile might work better for you. Compost has a clean and dark look to it. Just create a compost pile and use the finished product for mulch. There are those who say that there are better uses for compost, but it is your compost and your garden so do what you want. It all becomes compost in the end anyway. You can compost most of your garden waste and a lot of your kitchen waste. This is a way that to help keep trash out of the landfill.
I could go on and on about mulch, it is kind of an obsession of mine. I will stop here though and let you get off the internet and into the garden. Just keep an eye on your plants and you will be surprised at how useful much of it is. Keep an eye on your kitchen as well. Much of the stuff that goes down the garbage disposal can be used in the garden.