My small town collects yard waste once a year, in the spring. This year, on the morning of the collection, I gazed up and down the street in bafflement. A couple of my neighbors had set out a bag or two at the curb; most had none.
I had 32.
In the three weeks since then I have already amassed a new mountain of debris at the back of the property large enough to be mistaken by a passing archaeologist for the remnants of a long-lost civilization. It’s composed primarily of weeds pulled from my flowerbeds and dead branches trimmed from the shrubbery.
My question: What do OTHER people do with their crap?
Granted, my landscaping is far more garden-oriented than my neighbors’. Most maintain long, uninterrupted stretches of lawn they just have to mow once a week. The guy next door, though, has a sizable vegetable garden, and I don’t see the margins of his yard becoming fortified with bulwarks of decaying organic matter. He must have SOME weeds. Where do they go?
I tend to foster more unwanted vegetation than I would if my beds were blanketed in a nice, thick layer of mulch. In addition to keeping down weeds, I understand that a covering of wood chips or coconut hulls tends to keep the ground cooler, retains precious moisture and improves the quality of the soil. I did mulch for several years, but my mother isn’t fond of the looks of the stuff and, frankly, with as many beds as I have now, it gets damned expensive. And so I weed.
I don’t mind that part. In fact, I find weeding very nearly as relaxing and cathartic as flicking sawfly larvae off the rose bushes. A gal can get a lot of heavy thinking done while performing the mindless exercise of pulling quackgrass and purslane from among the daisies and gladioli. It’s what to do with the haul that’s vexing.
My first several years gardening, I was all about composting. I bought first a plastic, snap-together compost bin, then later a kind of silo made of polyurethane, and threw my pickings in them. When these quickly filled, I started throwing stuff in the u-shaped enclosure formed by an old dog pen my Dad erected (his dog Ralph spent a total of about 10 minutes in there over a lifetime of 15 years) that has now become the frame of the grapevine arbor. Soon that receptacle, too, achieved maximum capacity.
Articles in gardening magazines (I have stockpiled a mountainous collection of those, too) give the impression that one need only dump green and brown organic matter in a heap, stir it around a bit once in a while and presto! Dark, rich, loamy compost magically appears in short order. But years after I started my various piles of wilted weedage, they remained … piles of weedage Actually, that’s not entirely true. They remained piles into which species of vermin had taken up residence – notably, snakes.
Snakes! Nope. Nope. Nopety-nope-nope.
The moment my sneakered foot was swarmed by baby garter snakes was the moment I decided to get out of the compost business. So now I’ve started accumulating plastic garbage receptacles, which I place in more or less orderly rows behind the shed. Theoretically, at some point I will haul the already-overflowing units to the municipal compost heap (aka Snake Valley). The hitch with this plan is that my little, red Kia can’t tote many garbage cans. Precisely, it can tote zero many. And so the garbage receptacles continue to proliferate almost as fast as the weeds that fill them.
I believe this is known as the Circle of Life. Isn’t nature fascinating?