- Author: Heidi Aufdermaur
Have you ever had a hobby that turned into an obsession? One of my hobbies is gardening of course, as a Master Gardener. Not too long ago, I acquired a chipper/shredder. One of my gardener friends had two and sold one of them to me at a fair price. I have always wanted one, dreaming of all the rich mulch I could make with my own waste.
I was excited to use it for the first time, donned the earplugs and safety glasses and got busy. Of course, I had to first collect the yard waste. I started coveting all the potential material that I thought would be suitable to shred or chip. I collected from my yard first, then one morning on the daily walk with my husband and soon after Christmas, I had a new insight for all the Christmas trees that were being discarded on the streets. I commented to my husband about collecting some of them to chip. To my surprise, I came home one day from running errands and found about 6 Christmas trees piled up in our yard. My heart fluttered with excitement. I was worried that adding too many of the pines would change the pH of my soil so I consulted Ed Perry, our former Environmental Horticulture Advisor for Stanislaus County. He said I could compost and chip away, as I was adding other species to the mix and it would take a lot more pine trees to make any difference in the pH of my soil.
I started seeing all the shrubs and trees in our yard that needed a good trim and piled them up to dry for a while. I also added some spent flowers to the pile. What I learned about shredding flowers is to cut off the seed heads (if I didn't want them to germinate where I spread the final product). I learned that after I had shredded some old marigold plants, spread the mulch in a pathway between my vegetable rows, I soon had marigolds sprouting up all over. I transplanted a few, left a few and pulled the rest, adding them to the new pile before they flowered.
I began to explore the surrounding yards in our neighborhood. Leaves and clippings looked like gold to me. My neighbor was extremely happy to let me rake her lawn of all the beautiful leaves that had fallen. To say the least, I have become somewhat obsessed with this new habit of gardening. I am also pleased that I am not adding all this waste to the green can for a trip to the land fill.
Did you know there is an assembly bill (AB341) that requires communities to divert yard waste from landfills and recycle it? With the rapidly depleting landfill capacity in California, 75% of yard waste is to be recycled. This goal was to be achieved by 2020. This bill requires every commercial business, institution, and apartment building to implement recycling programs.
Even though this bill focuses on businesses and large complexes, it's also good practice for homeowners. Keeping your yard waste on site, adding it to a compost pile or breaking it down by running over small portions with a lawn mower, one can keep this valuable commodity in one's own yard. Some benefits of mulch include reducing water loss to evaporation, moderates soil temperature, reduces weed growth thus making weeds easier to manage and reduces dust in drip-irrigated landscapes.
So, if you become obsessed like me, just think of all the good that happens when collecting your yard waste and keeping it on site. Happy Gardening.