Of all the things to worry about during the pandemic, perhaps the fact that some trash companies have begun to suspend yard waste pick up should be way down on the list.
But this is a garden blog and it’s relevant, so here we go.
Yesterday I received a recorded message from my trash company saying that — due to the higher volume of residential trash that’s been produced during the shut down — they were indeed going to suspend yard waste pick up. It’s understandable; nevertheless, it’s a tad problematic at this time of year to be without that service.
During the spring and fall, I clean up massive amounts of debris from my yard: sticks, branches, weeds, clippings, dried flower stalks, leaves, nuts, etc. Some of this I add to my half-assed compost pile, but a lot of it I toss into old garbage cans and place out on the street every Tuesday night to be picked up by the trash company. Presumably, they dump it onto a much larger compost pile, where I imagine an army of county workers lovingly tending the pile with pitchforks. Much of the stuff I put out as yard waste is stuff that would take years to break down into usable compost (branches, course leaf stems, etc.) or it’s stuff that I fear would simply sprout on my compost pile and swallow it up (e.g., ivy clippings) so out it goes.
But alas, now I and many other gardeners are stuck having to manage our own waste. The way I see it there are three options:
- Stop collecting the waste in the first place. This means no weeding, no cutting down of old perennials, and generally no tidying of the garden whatsoever. Just let everything sit in place. For mowing, just let the clippings sit in the grass. Or I guess, don’t mow?
- Hire some kind of landscaping crew to do the yard work for you. They will then take the waste away as part of their service, presumably. (Although usually it seems like the mowing guys leave the bags of grass clippings out at the curb for their clients’ yard waste service to collect.)
- Find an out-of-the-way place in your yard and dump as much of waste as you can in that spot.
Option 1 seems implausible to me. Even if you are a proponent of natural gardening practices and “wild” gardens (which I definitely am!) it seems like some clean up and debris removal is necessary. Also, gardeners like to garden, and weeding/pruning/clean-up tasks are like 75% of gardening. Having said that, it is worth asking if there are areas of the garden that could just get a bit more wild this year. Who knows, maybe some interesting things could happen if you just let a few things go.
Option 2 is fine, I guess, but I can’t afford to pay a landscaping crew or professional gardener to come in once a week and do what I usually do, so that’s out for me.
Option 3 is a great option if you have an out-of-the-way spot, like a distant corner or an empty space behind a shed or something like that. There are ecological benefits to keeping more “waste” on your property, and if you are organized and systematic about it, maybe it could even be a habit that continues after the shutdown is over.
I am lucky in that my backyard ends in a pointy triangular shape that is the perfect place for compost and yard waste.
Usually my compost area looks like this:
I know, it’s pretty bad. There is no composting discipline here. Underneath the vegetable waste are large branches that fell during summer thunderstorms, big sticks, and of course, there is last fall’s decorative squash bravely resisting the forces of decomposition. I can dig under the pile to get some scoops of nice compost, but mostly it is a place to dump yard waste during the months that there is no yard waste pickup.
Since I will be needing to dump a whole bunch more stuff here over the coming weeks and maybe months, I tidied it up in preparation:
So my plan is to dump most of the weeds on the compost pile, and then try to sort the bigger yard waste, like sticks, tough perennial stalks, etc., into some organized piles. Noxious things like ivy vines I will covertly slip into my regular trash can.
I don’t know if it will work, but gardeners are nothing if not adaptable, right? Hey, maybe we will develop some valuable new habits as a result of this crazy shutdown.
Let’s give it a shot!