How To: Eliminate the Green Waste Bin

When we first moved into this house, the yard was very neglected.  I spent weeks filling up the two green waste bins and it felt like I would never catch up with getting rid of all the piles I had around the yard.  I started researching other ways that I could start reusing some of the waste from our yard instead of sending it to the city.  I have now found a use for everything I was throwing away in the green bins previously!

1.  This is something I have always done anyway, but grass clippings go into the compost bin.

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2.  I have always heard that pine needles do not make good mulch for vegetable beds because they are acidic.  I spent so much time filling up those bins with pine needles.  I then read a recent study at a university testing the actual impact pine needles have on the pH of soil.  The study found that pine needles that have been sitting out for at least 3 weeks have no impact on the soil pH.  Now, instead of throwing all the pine needles out, I gather them into a pile and let them age into good mulch for my vegetable beds.  While I am waiting for them to be ready to use in the vegetable beds, I use them as mulch under the pine tree in our backyard.  Now I have enough to keep all of my vegetable beds nicely mulched!

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3.  Instead of throwing out branches, twigs, and some dried ivy leaves from the trees and vines I have pruned, we decided to pile it up for making more mulch.  I let it all dry out, and then I chipped it up to make more mulch.

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4.  Instead of tossing out the weeds from the garden beds and grass, I am using the weeds to make a type of compost tea (original post here). Everything has really been flourishing since I started feeding them with this as an added supplement!

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How To: My Favorite Lawn Care Tools

I like to try to keep our front grass looking as nice as possible, in as eco-friendly of a way as possible.  I use organic fertilizer, I don’t use weed killer chemicals anywhere, and use this tool instead.
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My husband was responsible for mowing the lawn at our old house, and it often was embarrassingly overgrown since he works so much (often on the weekends too).  I told him I would take over the lawn care at the new house if he got me a new lawnmower.   I do not like the gas powered mower he has, and besides the fact that I don’t like gas powered tools for their emissions, it was way too big and heavy for me to maneuver around this multi-level yard.

I told him I needed something I could easily pick up, and wanted to get a reel mower.  He thought I was crazy that I wanted to go motor-less, but I insisted.  I also wanted one with a bag so I could add the grass clippings to my compost bin.  If you leave the grass clippings on the grass, it is good for the grass because it adds an extra boost of nitrogen when the grass decomposes, and acts as a mulch.  However, in a neighborhood where everyone has immaculately groomed front yards, I don’t like the look of decaying grass clippings on top of our lawn.  It just does not look as nice as I want it to look.

I first tried the Scotts reel mower, and the blades were not sharp enough.  It ripped and tore the grass, leaving brown edges on the top where the grass blades were torn.  I returned that mower and then tried the Craftsman model.  This one works much better and I am really happy with it.

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Before I mow the grass, I always try to remove as many of the pine needles as possible.  The hired gardeners in the area always use power blowers to get rid of all of the pine needles, but I have found that our blower doesn’t really get rid of all of them.  Besides, I always prefer to use a little elbow grease instead of electricity/gas power when possible.  Getting a garden motivated me to cancel my gym membership! 🙂  I use a simple plastic rake, and it does great things when getting rid of the pine needles.  I go one round with the rake like I am sweeping, and then a second round where I drag the rake behind me, never lifting it up until it is full.  I zig zag back and forth dragging the rake behind me, until I have covered the whole area.

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The strange tool next to the rake in the second picture is my grass aerator.  I picked this up recently since the soil in our front yard is extremely compacted.  I used this to aerate the lawn, allowing the water to penetrate deeper to the grass’ root system.  I don’t like the look of the little dirt plugs that it leaves behind everywhere, but they add nutrients back into the grass.  As a compromise, I went through afterward and stepped on all of the plugs to break them up.

The last picture is the one challenge that I have found no store-bought tool will help with.  There is one particular type of weed that was growing in our backyard, with very thick woody stems.  They are too thin for the weed tool to yank up, and too thick for the lawnmower to cut.  I had to go through and yank them up by hand, which wasn’t fun, but didn’t take as long as I thought it would.  It only took me about a half an hour to go through and yank out all of these weeds in about 600 square feet of grass.

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