10 Clever Ways to Upcycle Your Spring Cleanup Garden Waste! 1

Spring – what a lovely season! The first blooms, the seedlings, birds… all start appearing in your garden, as does lots of waste! You pruned, you removed old leaves, you started the first weeding, and how about all the logs and wood bits that winter damaged? What can you do with all this “debris” of the good season? Well, recycle it, of course!

Nothing goes to waste in a well-managed garden, especially if you aim for self-sufficiency, or at least you want to recycle as much as you can, and save money! Most of what you may think “useless” can actually help you along with your gardening, as long as you can see its “next function” in your yard. And I have a few ideas for you – actually, 10…

1: Recycled Mulch

Recycled Mulch

The easiest way to use garden waste is to “turn” it into mulch. In fact, almost anything can be used for mulching (including plastic, in theory, but then it’s not good for the environment). Old leaves and wood chippings are the first that spring to mind, but there’s more…

Did you buy new garden tools and they came in cardboard boxes? They make excellent mulch!

Have you tilled and raked your beds and you have a pile of pebbles and stones left over? Guess what, they could become decorative mulch for succulents or other decorative varieties.

Have you cut dry branches and dead stalks? Chop them up and spread them over your vegetable beds, as mulch, of course!

Depending on how much waste you have, you could get different types of mulch for various areas of your garden, for example, wood chips for your flower beds and leaves and stalks for your veggie patch. That will save you some money and keep your soil fertile.

2: Top Up Your Compost Heap with Spring Waste Material

Top Up Your Compost Heap with Spring Waste Material

You will be using lots of compost in spring, so it’s also time to top it up. For cold composting, you can go free, using any mix of “brown and green” or carbon and nitrogen. For hot composting, you need to be specific. But as we don’t want to complicate our lives at this busy time of the year…

Top up or start a cold compost heap, it will be ready in a few months (6 to 12), or speed it up with an activator, like nettle macerate, some manure, etc.

And don’t worry about taking off the bits of wire and plastic now! Do it when the compost is ready, they will still be there and it’s much easier! This way, you can also clean your garden from unwanted and polluting materials as well.

3: Make Leaf Mold

Leaf mold is excellent to bring fertility back into your land! It’s becoming very popular with organic gardeners and it’s a fairly recent discovery. But it’s so easy to make, that wasting all that foliage you collect in spring is a real pity!

10 Clever Ways to Upcycle Your Spring Cleanup Garden Waste! 2

The cheapest and easiest way to make it is with a bin bag – yes, the black one you use for garbage!

  • Fill the bag with dead leaves.
  • Moisten it, ideally with a spray bottle, and either every – inch (15 cm) layer, or you can mix the leaves up afterwards.
  • Seal it.
  • Place holes in the bin bag for ventilation.
  • Check every month for humidity, and add some sprayed water if necessary.

When you see that white fungal filaments are forming, your leaf mold is ready to use!

4: Turn It into Ash – And Amend Your Soil!

gardener spreads ash on top of soil to fertilize and add minerals. next to it a bucket full of wood ashes

Yet another very simple way to recycle garden waste, especially wood, is to burn it and turn it into ash. It is a concentrate of minerals, and you can use it in small doses to amend the soil, or also to enrich your compost heap.

Leaves are not ideal for this, they have better uses (compost, leaf mold etc.), but dry wood you get from pruning, old logs that winter has ruined, posts that are no longer standing are just perfect!

5: Feed Your Animals

10 Clever Ways to Upcycle Your Spring Cleanup Garden Waste! 3

If you have yard animals, like chickens, rabbits, but also goats etc., a bunch of freshly cut grass and leaves after the long months of winter, where they mainly fed on dry food is really welcome. It will also help boost their immune system, which needs vitamins at this stage.

Make sure you give it to them within the day (including your weeding), so they get all the nutrients. And they may well find some little caterpillars and other protein rich insects in them.

6: Make Liquid Fertilizers

Both freshly cut grass and leaves are excellent to make liquid fertilizers, because at this stage, they are very rich in nitrogen, and you don’t want to waste it, because most of it will go into the atmosphere!

10 Clever Ways to Upcycle Your Spring Cleanup Garden Waste! 4

There are many ways to make nitrogen rich liquid fertilizers from freshly cut grass and leaves, so, I’ll give you a simple one.

  • Use a big container, with a lid.
  • Fill it to 2/3 with the chopped cut grass or leaves.
  • Place a stone or brick on them to keep them pressed.
  • Cover the with water (rainwater if you can)
  • Seal it.
  • Stir it regularly and wait for 3 to 5 weeks.

Your fertilizer is ready! Dilute one part of fertilizer with ten parts of water to feed your plants.

7: Use Stalks and Branches for Staking

Vegetable garden plot in a community garden

Spring is planting time, and soon, you will need stakes for your tomatoes, peas etc. So, why go and buy expensive ones, when you have some straight hard stalks and branches in your “waste” heap?

Just make sure that the stalks and branches you use are fairly straight and strong, and simply stick them in the ground as stakes when you need them.

8: Make a Wattle Fence

Make a Wattle Fence

Do you have a problem with deer? Look into your spring garden “debris” and choose long and flexible branches and stalks, and if they have spikes and thorns on them, even better!

Just stick poles into the soil, about 3 to 4 feet apart (90 to 120 cm), and then wave the branches and stalks horizontally into them, and you have a fully functional wattle fence!

Wattle fences are really traditional in old farming, they are quick to build, cheap and they will last you about one year.

9: Build Trellises

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To build a trellis you will need to choose straight(ish) and strong branches and sticks, bamboo is ideal, but other plants will give you good material as well.

Then let your creative juices flow with the shape and size of your trellis, where you can grow decorative or veggie climbers, from clematis to peas and cucumbers. If the quality of the wood is poor, just use them for annuals, and reserve stringer structures for perennials instead.

10: Build a Beetle and Ladybug Shelter

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What can you do with those old logs and branches that winter has almost rotted away? Simple, pile them up into a pyramid and make a shelter for beetles and ladybugs! These insects are really helpful to gardens, and they like to lay eggs and repair from cold weather.

It’s a simple but very useful use of your garden waste, and you can be creative with it, even adding “extensions” as you go along, and your flowers and vegetables will be really thankful for this little effort of yours.

Choose a sheltered position, from wind and string sunlight, in a corner, and you will have a garden thriving with little beetles.

A Final Word, What NOT to Do with Your Spring Garden Waste

You can leave grass and leaves lying around, and your yard will only look a bit untidy. But do not leave logs and branches on the ground: their decomposition uses nitrogen, which it takes from your soil, impoverishing it.


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