What to do with green waste in the garden

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I don’t know about you but I haven’t been sleeping all that well recently. All I can say is, thank goodness for my garden and my grandkids. I think I’d go nuts without them! So let me tell you about what I’ve been doing in my garden.

Autumn Cleanup

This is the time of the year that I remove the annual sunflowers, tomatoes and other summer annuals. It has always been difficult for me to deal with the green waste. The problem is reducing it to small pieces so it can decompose quickly without becoming a cozy home for rats.

Sunflowers at end of season
Sunflowers at end of season (Oct 2016)

I used to have an electric leaf shredder, but I hated it. I hated wearing goggles, ear muffs, a mask, and gloves. Once suitably suited up, with much noise and dust, the damn thing would jam with even the smallest sticks. I had to shut it off, unplug it, unscrew the top and wrestle out the caught twig. What a pain! So I got rid of it.

leaf shredder
All geared up to use an electric leaf shredder (Nov 2009)

Forgoing the shredder

Faced with too much debris to decompose in my compost pile, I started looking at shredders again. The one most people liked was the one I had gotten rid of. Some mentioned a shredder that worked like a line trimmer (weed wacker). Well, I’ve got a weed wacker, so, I thought I’d try running it through a pile of soft leaves and stems. I have been doing this for the past few weeks and it has been working well. Since it has been very hot, the piles seem to disappear (well, reduce greatly) in days.

Green waste
Weed whipped soft green waste (Sept. 2020)
Mulch pile and weed whipped soft green waste
This is a good time to turn over the compost bin as well. I turn it over, mix it with dry waste and start the bin all over again. (Sept 2020)

Larger and stiffer stems

That helps with the soft green leftovers, but what about the stiff stems and twigs. For these, I have been cutting them up into pieces about 8 inches long and dropping them where they grew. I don’t have to haul the debris to a new place, nor do I have to throw it away. Furthermore, I don’t have to cart compost back into the garden to be used as mulch since I’m just using what grew there. I know, it is not as pretty as wood chips or gorilla hair, but it is cheaper and more sustainable. This works for me.

Minced sunflowers
Minced sunflowers. In days the green will turn brown and look like the rest of the mulch in my yard (Oct 2020)
Green waste mulch
Close up of garden floor mulched with green waste (Oct 2020)
sunflower stalks
Sunflower and white sage stalks too large to cut up by hand, but very beautiful with their straight strong stalk and interesting roots (Oct 2017)
Wild sunflowers
These sunflowers that bloom from May to October are loved by me, my family and lots of goldfinches (July 2018)


Whether you want to do what I do with my green waste, or not, Please, Please, Please, say NO TO BLOWERS. Though electric maybe be slightly less polluting than gasoline-powered blowers, blowing dust and debris into the air during a pandemic that damages the lungs, and when our air quality is already poor due to the fires is a TERRIBLE IDEA. Furthermore, think of how pleasant it would be to enjoy the outdoors without the roar of these despicable machines. Take a cue from Davis and BAN THE BLOWER!