The garden is a great place to recycle. There’s more than one way to be green in a garden, as many gardeners will tell you. Many traditional garden practices are forms of reusing or re purposing. Looking around my garden, I see many areas where we are recycling and have been for years.
The garden shed is made from pieces of other buildings, collected until we had enough parts to build the existing shed next to the gardens. A cold frame is built from lumber scraps and old windows. T he raised beds are built from old railroad ties, stacked up and lined with ground cloth. Those timbers have been given a second life here in the garden. Every season, we add composted manure, stove ashes and leaves for nutrients and mulch value. At the end of the season, we chop up and turn all remaining plant material back into the soil.
As we have worked to landscape the property around the house, we have unearthed a quantity of bricks. We have used these to create an outdoor fireplace and to build a surround around the otherwise not very aesthetic looking outdoor sink, an old laundry sink we connect near the garden in the summer time. The pathway leading to this sink is also made of re purposed bricks and the worn look of them is reminiscent of a garden from times gone by…
An old wooden door found behind my parents’ home, has been rescued and placed horizontally to create an outdoor potting bench beside the vegetable garden, where seeds can be planted into pots and later transplanted into the soil nearby. Pottery mixing bowls with cracks, enamel ware pans with rust and other re-purposed implements hold plants and garden tools and items. As many seeds as can be practically saved, are, and replanted again the next year with luck to grow again.
Any produce that is bruised or damaged at all is tossed into the grass behind the garden where oodles of birds vie for the opportunity to feast without pilfering the garden. Inside we put all of our vegetable, fruit and egg-shell scraps into a pail and add it to a large compost barrel outside. In the winter, the barrel is inaccessible but the cold renders it nearly paralyzed as well. So we save up those scraps in the garage and layer them with leaves we set aside in fall just for this purpose. Come spring, we dump that into the barrel outside and give the compost a jump-start.
In the yard, we mulch the grass and leaves back into the lawn to improve the moisture retaining ability and to add the nutrients back to the soil there. Any branches we’ve trimmed or that have come down in storms, we pile up and occasionally run through the chipper to create mulch, which is used around all the shrubs. Not much goes to waste here. Stove ash, feeds our many lilac shrubs as well as being added to the vegetable garden.
When I cut perennials down in the fall, I use those plant stems and leaves to shelter the base of the plant. In spring, I rake the remainders up and compost them, letting the warm sun in to stimulate the new growth. When the Christmas tree begins to turn dry, we cut all the branches close to the trunk and use them to cover the herbs before deep winter sets in.
For years I have been returning plastic pots and trays to small garden centers that re-used them. It is refreshing to see that some of the larger home centers with garden departments, are now recycling those same items. I hope the recycling trend continues to grow in gardens everywhere! Every little bit helps.