Need mulch or leaves for compost? If you live in a city where the sanitation department picks up yard waste, you can score big for your garden.

My walking partner, J, has been building a big raised vegetable garden. The sides are about 30″ high, made of wood and corrugated steel. When the time came for filling it with dirt, she was shocked to learn how much she would need. So she set about hunting for things to use as filler – sawdust from my husband’s woodshop (fills in nicely but not nearly enough), firewood left from last winter (too chunky, and not enough), whatever she could find. Too little material would simply allow the dirt to fall down between the cracks.

A couple of days ago as I was walking to meet her, I noticed it was yard waste pickup day. When we met up, she told me she had woken up at 2:00am worrying about filling the bottoms of the vegetable beds before the dirt delivery the next day. “You could use leaves,” I said, pointing to the paper bags along the curb. “You could come back after we walk and put some in your car.”

We walked a few more blocks and saw more and more bags. “Let’s do it right now!” We turned around and came back for my husband’s truck. Three truckloads later, just barely ahead of the city trash truck, we had enough. The plan was originally to empty the bags into the beds, but it turned out that all she had to do was to lay them on their sides. They fit perfectly. Of course over time they will degrade and the beds will sink, but now she has a base for adding more compost, hay, etc.

We felt like guerilla gardeners, stealing all those leaf bags just ahead of the city truck. What a caper! It was a good workout, too.

NOTE: Our city has a composting facility, which is where the yard waste goes after it’s picked up. After it’s composted, it is used for city landscaping purposes and also made available to the public. So it does get used properly again and is not sent to the landfill. Our caper eliminated the additional steps of picking up, composting, and then distributing the compost. Win!

Mary Howe

Mary was a founding member of the board of the Resilient Activist and does tech consulting for us. She would like to make more changes in the care of our planet than just refusing plastic shopping bags and over-packaged products. Even better would be to make big changes with kindness and a light heart. Contact Mary.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Kathy Dolson

    While I commend your creativity, and love the look of your friend’s raised beds, where I live the yard waste bags do NOT go to the landfill. That’s the whole reason for separating them from your trash. They go to a commercial composting facility. I’m pretty certain those pickup guys don’t mind having less bags to collect though!

    1. Mary Howe

      You are quite right! The yard waste bags go to city composting. I’ll edit the article. Thanks.

  2. Pam Geer

    Mary, your creativity and enthusiasm are to be commended. Wish I could have seen you in action. In a year or two, let us know how your friend’s raised beds are doing.

    1. Mary Howe

      I will!

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