As we drove by the plush residential homes, some recently covered with a fresh coating of paint and with the variously landscaped yards displaying their beautiful spired shrubs, flowering gardens and well watered green lawns, it could not be helped but to notice the evenly placed lawn bags filled to the brim with yard waste, just waiting to be carried away by the scheduled garbage pickup. So much labor must have gone into neatly and
carefully packing each one of them so they wouldn’t be torn open by a stiff twig or two. Each fall and spring a similar scene is reenacted by most of us who seasonally do our traditional yard cleanup.
Having been a fairly devout organic gardener in the 1980’s and traditionally would save every bit of waste clippings from our yard that would then go into a 4×4 foot by 4 feet high loosely constructed wooden bin for later processing and churning into a fine mulch, it was difficult to see virtually truckloads of “Organic Gold Plant Food” just waiting to
be carted away to some landfill, or just possibly be used for fuel in some local utility supplier’s furnace. It is beyond my understanding how this “fuel” for plants can be placed on the discard list.
With this fresh on my mind, I recollect a book written by Ruth Stout, an avid gardener, who appropriately called her book…”The No Work Garden” which showed how she only used bales of hay in the 1950’s and earlier to build her garden, spread the hay in the fall and after being well compressed through the winter, she would then simply place the vegetable seed into a small clump of soil at the proper planting time, pressed it firmly and watered to get the seed to germinate. Thereafter, her garden was never watered again. She did this year after year …for thirty years. The soil was perfectly PH level balanced and so were all the required nutrients to sustain all the plants. Sounds like the perfect scenario, but this example is only to show what can be done with most of anyone’s yard
refuse…if properly processed.
Now, to step back to my 4-foot cube of diverse organic refuse and having filled the bin to about the 3/4 mark by eye, placing a shovelful of topsoil in between 3-4 inch layers of the material, we simply add worms, which can be purchased at a local farm store, or mail ordered through a garden supplier. Usually, they come in a few hundred in quantity and are newborns, but you can also use local worms, picked from decayed leaf. Once placed in your compost bin and watered occasionally, they will quickly multiply and digest the organic material aerating your compost in the process. This process is carried out…automatically without energy expended on anyone’s part, except for the original placement of the material and bin construction. After 3 or 4 weeks, given proper rainfall and a little watering, your “pot of gold” should be ready to use. Then, simply place a handful of this composted material in a small hole 6 inches deep, for pre-started tomato plants several inches tall, where you plan to plant your vegetable garden. Pack some of this compost mixed with some topsoil around the sides and also dress around the top of each plant. Given the proper rain, sunshine and warmth, your tomatoes will give you a very early harvest, mainly because you did not discard the “hidden gold”.
We all do it to some extent or another. Seasonally, we do a
yard cleanup, discarding a goldmine of precious material we
call waste. With a little time and some ingenuity, we can
harvest a bounty of food.