How We Handle Green Waste At Our Homestead

Just like you, we’ve got one of those green trash cans for all of the “green waste” out at our homestead.  We don’t really need it, though, because we recycle most of our green waste right on site.  So far, we’ve been able to make great use of most of our plant material by feeding it to the hens and goats, burning it to create a source of potash for the garden, returning it to the garden as compost, or fashioning it into useful garden objects and decorations.

Even though my gardens are just getting started, they accumulate a great deal of green waste in the form of weeds, dying vegetation, and plant trimmings.  I spent the bulk of today going through my front and backyard gardens, removing plants that were “past their prime”,  like these African Marigolds.  As much as it pained me to get rid of them, I knew the garden would look much better without them, so out they came.

A while back, I read that some people put marigold petals in their chicken feed to give the yolks a more vibrant color.  So, instead of tossing the marigolds into the green trash can, I chucked them into the chicken pen instead.  I don’t know whether the hens will eat the petals or not, but that’s not the main reason why I donated them to the chickens.  The marigolds are being recycled in the chicken pen because of what the decaying plant material brings…lots of bugs — a gourmet treat for the hens.  Also, as the flower heads break down they deposit their seed into the highly fertile ground.  In a few short weeks, if germination takes place,  many tiny marigold seedlings will emerge, yummy forage for the girls!

Marigolds aren’t the only plants that are looking pretty worn out this time of year.  The sunflowers have seen better days, too…

So, just like the marigolds, the uprooted sunflowers are deposited into both the chicken’s and goat’s pens.  The hens enjoy picking out the seeds from the dead flower heads, and the goats enjoy munching on any fresh flowers that still remain.  Ginger gets pretty excited when she sees me coming with a load of them!

The hens and goats also enjoy a steady diet of weeds, tree trimmings, and grass clippings from the gardens.  Ginger and Maryann absolutely love mulberry and elm leaves, knotweed, spurge, clover, dandelion, and lambsquarters; the hens also enjoy clover, lambsquarters, and just about every kind of grass, too.

I just remembered another way we’ll be recycling the sunflowers this year:  after the stalks have dried,  they will be chopped up and burned in the fire pit, and the ashes will be incorporated back  into the beds, as an added source of potash, where next year’s corn crop is going to grow.

Before moving on the to the final methods of recycling that we use for our green waste, I wanted to mention that we do make use our green trash can for a few things, like tree branches and rose bush clippings, and weeds that are considered poisonous for the animals.    If we had a wood chipper, I’m sure we’d recycle a lot more tree branches, but the roses pretty much end up in the trash can because of their thorns.  This is tough for me, because Ginger and Maryann love to eat the leaves.  I don’t know if the thorns would bother them if I just gave them the entire branch, but I haven’t wanted to chance it, especially after having to deal with an abscess Ginger developed after getting a foxtail lodged in her cheek.  So, when I have a little extra time, I just pick off a few of the leaves and hand feed them through the fence…the girls just love them!

Another way that we recycle our green waste is by returning it to the garden beds where it came from.  Instead of creating one, specific compost pile, I simply cast all of the material onto the ground wherever I want to create a new bed.  Then, I cover it with black plastic, and let it decompose for several months, creating a new, wonderfully fertile garden bed that’s ready to be seeded or accept transplants.

The final way that we recycle our green waste is by fabricating it into decorative and useful garden objects.  Tree branches become trellises and arbors, stumps become bases for bird baths, seasonal decorations, and so on…

As time goes by, I’m sure we’ll find lots of other ways to recycle our green waste.  There will always be plenty of plants and weeds for our animals to forage on, twigs and branches to burn for potash, dead and decaying matter to add to composting beds, and a myriad of garden projects just waiting to be designed and assembled —  In fact, just the other day I was thinking about making a raised bed enclosure out of some twigs that have been piling up underneath one of our mulberry trees.

I’m thankful that our cities and counties have a plan for dealing with all of the green waste that comes in from the millions of homes in our country, but they’re not going to get very much of ours…we’re saving our green waste for the animals, and gardens out at our homestead, instead.

What do you do with  green waste at your home?

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