No Waste Gardening

In my yard, I try to let no organic matter go to waste.  What am I talking about do you ask?  Read on!

1.  Save Your Leaves 
In the fall I save every single leaf that I rake.  I load them onto tarps and drag them to their hiding spot behind my shed.  Do you see my stash?  They are hidden from the street but easy to access when I need them.

Why do I save my leaves?  They made great, free mulch for my vegetable garden.  I let the leaves decompose a bit over the winter and then spread them around my garden.  They enrich the soil, plus they make my garden almost weed free.

My task for today will be to push wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of leaves up the hill to my garden.

I’ll first lightly hoe away any weeds that have germinated, then I’ll spread decomposed leaves over the soil.

My town has a terrible deer problem and growing a garden would be impossible without a deer netting fence backed up by an electric fence.  It’s not pretty, but I do what I have to do to get fresh vegetables.

The area in the picture below was mulched with decomposed leaves earlier this spring.  I’ve had to pull a weed here or there but this bed has essentially been weed-free since the mulch was applied.

A hodge-podge of plants grows here.  Protected by deer netting is a Hydrangea that I won last summer at a cook-out, some Boxwoods that I’m nursing into bushes to use elsewhere in my yard, my herb garden, and Dahlias that so far are refusing to grow.  If you are wondering why my yard is brown, we killed it on purpose to try to eradicate my lawn enemy, Bermuda grass.  The battle wages on!

2.  Magnolia Leaves
Do you have a Magnolia tree?  My grandfather called them “trash trees” because there’s always something to clean up around them year-round.  Magnolias shed their leaves in the spring instead of the fall.  I don’t let those leaves go to waste either.  They make a good mulch for pathways or for hidden areas in the yard that need mulch but I don’t want to waste my “pretty mulch” on.

This bed is a bed that gets “pretty mulch.”

This hidden area on our property line gets free Magnolia leaf mulch.

3.  Composting
I can’t say enough good things about this.  We save every compostable scrap from our kitchen for the compost pile.  I keep a bowl under the sink and carry it to my pile when it is full.  It doesn’t smell and along with recycling, makes us have very little trash.  I’m a lazy composter.  If you aren’t lazy, you layer browns and greens, make sure it is slightly moist, and turn it frequently.  I pile mine up and wait for the bacteria to do its work.  The reward is beautiful “black gold” that I mix into my garden or flower beds.

No, this isn’t pretty, but it’s hidden by my storage shed and I’m the only person who sees it.

The one thing that I’m careful about with my compost pile is not putting weeds into it.  I throw those over the fence into my neighbor’s bamboo pit being careful to spread them out so that they dry and have no chance of surviving. 

4.  Sticks
I’m probably one of the few people in our area who doesn’t pile every branch or stick onto the street for the city to pick up.  Mine go down the hill to a gigantic stick pile.  These can be chipped for free mulch.  Full disclosure – we haven’t chipped anything in years.  The belt on our chipper slips making it a scary chore.  One of these days we’ll get it fixed and I’ll have plenty of free mulch to use for pathways.  In the meantime, I’m sure this stick pile is home to many animals.

I call the area behind our shed the service area of our yard.
Service Area

I do spend a lot of money each year on “pretty mulch.”  Boy has it gotten expensive.  This is the dump truck load that I purchased in April.  I used in on all of our landscape beds.

It wasn’t quite enough, so today I will finally finish the job with one small pick-up truck load.

I would need quite a few more loads of “pretty mulch” if I didn’t save my leaves.  This fall when you are raking, consider saving your leaves to use for next year.  Your garden will thank you!

I’m sharing with Amanda’s Weekend Bloggy Reading Party.
Weekend Bloggy Reading


  1. Hi Paula! Thanks for stopping by my blog!! Pinterest is very simple!! As long as you “drag” the Pin it bookmark to your favorites toolbar you are good to go!!! Let me know if you need any help!!

    I learned something new from your post today!! I had no idea that decomposing leaves will allow your bed to be weed free!! WOW! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love that you repurpose all your waist paula!!!
    You really do have a “service” area foe yourself.

    I still need to do more mulching this year as well but Im not as lucky to have room for a compost pile in my yard. ( its tiny)
    I also LOVE that you are growing and nursing some landscaping plants in your garden! Thats so nice to see than just flowers and veggies growing.
    Great post!

  3. Great tips, Paula!! T HATES raking the leaves up…maybe if he knew we could use them for the garden, he’d be more likely to work with them. 😉

  4. You are a good steward of the land Paula. We do have a compost big, actually two that Mr. Hubby built me years ago. Because we live in a development I don’t have any place to hide yard waste like you do, sure wish I did. I do use grass clippings around the bushes where the dogs run rather than mulch because they run through it all the time.

  5. i would love to compost, but i am afraid it will get stinky. does that not happen? we don’t have a deer problem, but something is digging. i don’t know if it’s squirrels or rabbits, but i am not happy about it. when i do a real veggie garden, i’m going to have to construct some sort of barrier!

  6. I love that you put every little scrap to good use 🙂 I’m guilty of throwing weeds into my compost pile…it’s bad!

  7. Paula, you absolutely amaze me! Your yard is just gorgeous, and your garden looks like it’ll be very productive! You’re so wise to compost and to use your leaves. That’s real-life recycling, if you ask me. . . using the products of the land to re-enrich the land, so that it can produce even more! Now that I think about it, composting and natural weed prevention are exactly the kinds of activities at which good middle school teachers OUGHT to excel. In the summer you’re doing it with your garden; in the school year, that’s kind of what you’re doing with your students! It’s all feeding and enriching! 🙂

  8. I would love to start a garden! It’s just too stinkin’ hot in Florida this time of year and everything dies. Yours is looking great though!


  9. Thanks for linking this up, Paula! I hope readers find your tips b/c I think they’ll be really helpful for us come Fall. 🙂

  10. Great ideas. I especially like the idea of putting the fall leaves on tarps so it is much easier to work with.

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