Recycling in the Garden

Recycling in the Garden

We know that recycling is a necessary part of life if we are going to take care of the earth. Many of us grew up in a world where we put all our trash in a box, took it out to the curb and it magically disappeared! Now that I’m older I am all too aware that not only does it not disappear, but many of the things I threw away as a child are still sitting somewhere, no closer to returning to dust than it was 30 years ago. This sort of thinking has changed my perspective and behavior.

Sending things to recycling (another magic truck with a better destination) is a wonderful option and I am so glad that recycling centers are readily available. It still takes energy to turn waste into a useful product so even before I put items in recycling I ask myself “Can I use this?” Here are a few items to which that answer is “yes”.

Paper products
I save unwaxed paper products like newspaper, brown paper bags and cardboard boxes for my garden. Since I am always expanding, I use them to prepare new beds. I will also lay them down in my garden paths over the growing season to suffocate weeds. I like to shred newspaper and use it as mulch around my plants and we use it as kitty litter in our home for our three felines.

Aged news paper (top) and new newspaper (bottom) mulch

Glass jars
Did you read Barry’s post on “Creative Ways to use Mason Jars”? He had some really excellent ideas and these are great methods for keeping spaghetti and pickle jars out of the garbage. Jumbo glass jars are great for preserving harvests by fermenting pickles, kimchi, and sauerkraut. Baby food jars make excellent seed storage and would make adorable gifts for new gardeners.

Scrap building supplies
I love scrap building supplies like untreated wood, wire, pipes, and bricks. Putting them to use in the garden requires some creativity, but that’s part of the fun of gardening! Create a unique trellis by combining what you have or start a small herb garden with some extra brick edging. The best part is, if you fail, you’re not out any money and you have gained some experience.

Leaves and grass clippings
If you do only one thing from this list, I would ask that you keep your leaves out of the landfill. They are filled with invaluable nutrients that need to be added back into the soil. We rake up all our leaves and pile them at least 12” high in the garden beds. As they break down they keep the soil alive and active over the winter and act as mulch in the spring when it’s time to plant. Your perennials would benefit from a heavy mulch of leaves over the winter to protect roots from freezing and the added nutrients in the soil will benefit any annuals you plant next year. If you don’t want to rake, simply go over the fallen leaves a few times with the lawnmower to return them to the soil without suffocating your lawn.

What is one thing you can keep out of the landfill?

Tiffany Selvey is a Master Gardener who writes about her passion for growing, cooking, and living naturally at When she’s not elbow deep in soil, she enjoys raising a very active son, laughing with her husband, and wrangling their five pets. Follow Tiffany’s gardening adventures on facebook and on twitter.

About Alexa

Marketing Director at Ozark Natural Foods
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