Recycle garden waste back into the garden

Gardening experts offer tips and tricks for a lush, eco-friendly garden in our waterwise gardeners roundtable.

Credit: iStock / esp_imaging

Carol Pope:

What is your best tip for how a gardener can recycle garden waste back into the garden?

Paul J. Tukey:
I have had nearly a decade of success with the “tumbler” compost bin. I simply dump in all of my biodegradable household waste and most of my garden waste into the bin and give it a spin every other day or so. It’s amazing how much stuff you can put into the bin over time without ever having to empty it. For the larger, bulkier or larger quantities of garden items, I simply keep a lazy man’s pile that is boxed in by four used wooden pallets. If I had more time, I could turn this pile, but I just let it all decompose and harvest the pile from the bottom.

Mary Ann Newcomer:

I think compost is the number one way to recycle from home to garden, garden to garden, etc. I, too, have a big tumbler, stashed at the side of my house, and I love the thing. I actually feel guilty if I get too lazy and toss the onionskins in the disposer instead of taking them to the tumbler. You’ve got to love the perfect circle: the earth enables you to grow food, you feed what you don’t eat back to the garden.

More from the Waterwise Gardeners Roundtable:

Lush lawn, waterwise lawn?

Reform a guzzler garden

Waterwise quick fixes

Waterwise tips for new gardeners

Eco-friendly lawns

A healthy-looking lawn

Herbicides and pesticides

Growing food on less water

Eco-friendly ponds

Nan Sterman:
For years, I did hot composting with a three-bin system and the whole shebang. Then, I had kids. My arms got their workout holding babies, patting backs and wiping rear ends rather than turning compost. These days, I have a big pile behind a fence for garden clippings. Kitchen waste goes into worm bins. I used to bury the kitchen waste in the big pile but that attracted too many critters, so I switched. I wish I had a big enough worm bin for the garden waste, too, since those worms do such an amazing job. Oh well…

Carol Pope:
So it sounds like tumbler and worm composters get a big thumbs-up as a way to recycle garden waste, create mulch and boost the soil. I’ve been using an indoor electric composter as a way to compost in bear country, but it can’t keep up with our fruit-eating family of five, so I’m planning to build two worm composters as well this spring and keep them on our balcony. (Our organic-gardening columnist Sheena Adams describes this process in our Spring issue of GardenWise.)

I’m with you, Mary Ann. Just throwing an onionskin in the garbage has me in a tizzy, too!