Free Super Fertile Flower Beds

by Daisy

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Look what I found:

It’s top dressing for my 100% trash flower beds. I AM SO EXCITED!!! Here’s how they look right now:

My husband might refer to this as Ivory’s Trash Olympics, but others might recognize it as a version of: lasagna gardening, sheet composting, or the Ruth Stout System. No matter what you call it, this stuff is going to break down into the most fertile planting medium this side of the Mississippi Delta.

Here’s what I did:

First, I robbed my neighbors trash generously helped my community reduce it’s carbon-footprint. I went around on garbage day (and the night before sometimes) and filled my car with bags of clean grass, newspapers, cardboard, dead plants, and I stopped by my favorite free compost joint for a bag of pick-me-up.

Second, I emptied my garage, garden, and kitchen of old plants, half bags of top soil, compost, spent veg plants, and kitchen trash headed for the compost bin (kid you not, peelings in the flower beds, but I’ll get to that later.)

Third, I realized that this project required Vastly Incredible Amounts of Trash, so I proceeded to GET COMPLETELY LOST in the winding, identical-if-you’re-staring-at-curbs, neighborhood roads around town. But, I returned with a CARLOAD of bags.

Now, there is no need to build it all in a day, (I’m still adding layers to my big bed) but regardless of how fast or slow you do it, here’s the recipe.

Free, Super-Fertile, 100% Trash Beds

1. Right on top of the grass, lay down GREAT GOBS of newspaper (Wet it if it you have a breeze) paper board (cereal boxes, beer boxes, etc), and/or cardboard. (especially good, since our curb-side pick-up doesn’t include it.)

This layer is your weed blanket. Feel free to make it as thick as you like. My neighbor set out three months of newspapers to be recycled, so my second bed weed blanket is about a half inch thick.

2. Start layering on the organic matter. I like to start with leaves. But, it doesn’t matter. This sucker is going to get deep, so do it in whatever order you like. Or mix them. It’s TRASH. No way to screw it up.

3. Keep tossing on new layers until it’s 8-12 inches deep, but really, you can keep going as long as you like.

In my beds, I did leaves, then grass, then kitchen trash and roadside discarded plants (found a GOLDMINE of discarded irises), then compost and coffee grounds, then more leaves. And loads more grass.

You will NOT BELIEVE the amount of neighborhood yard trash you can absorb by doing this. If you’ve ever tried to keep a compost bin filled, you know how quickly this stuff compresses.

4. Now, it’s time to plant. (I DO NOT recommend scattering seed on a bed like this. They get lost.) Push the mulch aside until you’re almost to the paper beneath, set in your seedling, and push the mulch back around it. Water and waa-laa!

My baby asparagus plants LOVED it (pictured), as did the little forsythia and baby Japanese maple.

Now, concerns….stink. Sniff your bags. DOG-ified grass will STINK.

Also, don’t leave the kitchen trash or hot decomposing grass on top without at least a handful of something else. Leaves, hay, straw, dry grass, pine needles, compost, whatever you’ve got around. Keep a bag of that stuff tucked away and you can keep throwing your plant-based trash in there for as long as you like.

A second, very common concern is that throwing hay or grass or other weed-seeded refuse in your bed means years of weeding. As Ruth Stout teaches (paraphrased), “If you have weeds, your mulch isn’t deep enough…If you see a weed, throw some more mulch on them…They’ll die of ‘old age’ before they reach the top.” You don’t sow grass by dumping a whole bunch of leaves on it or nurture seedlings by burying them in pine needles. Same thing works for weeds and their seeds.

Third concern…appearance. I have no shame. But most people aren’t like that. So, if you don’t like the dry grass look, or the crumbled leaf look, you can *sigh* go buy some bagged mulch and put it on top. It will compost like the rest of it.

Fourth, leaves and pine needles break down too slowly to make a good fine compost. They will stay mulch ‘longer’ than other things. Who cares if some of the old mulch hangs on an extra year?

In case you were wondering about it, this will totally work in raised veggie beds. You can plant straight in, or let it ‘bake’ for a season before you plant. And if you do it on a garden plot that you intend to till next season, it will turn over into the most fertile soil…EVER.


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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Tomato Lady November 11, 2008 at 5:16 pm

Did you plant enough asparagus to share?

CharlysGardenPlace June 3, 2009 at 6:37 am

The “No-Dig Gardening” guy puts a little handful of soil to plant seeds, as I remember. don’t know, I haven’t tried it yet.
God Bless!

ivorysoap76 June 3, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Yes, I do that too now. When did I write this? I have to go back and fix that.

Donna January 11, 2010 at 9:36 am

There’s another gardening method called Synergistic Gardening, but you probably already know that!

I have wanted our Community Garden members to go around the neighborhood and either ask if they can have the compostable material after the owner collected it or offer to collect it/clear their yard. But I have been worried about doing this because I do not want any of the Metro Waste people to come knock on my door! Residents pay for bags to collect this material and the Metro Waste people collect it, compost it, then sell it to other places in the area, where the Residents can then go and buy back their own leaves/twigs. Awesome.

devs December 20, 2010 at 8:05 pm

coffee grinds from starbucks might work out with the compost/newspaper/cardboard/peelings etc… i think starbucks gives it out for free if you ask

Dee May 15, 2013 at 5:11 am

I get coffee at our local coffee shop and the tossed out greens from Carrs. Cardboard from lowes. It’s all free 🙂 they think I’m a little nuts but….. Haha

Janine January 17, 2014 at 7:28 am

hmm, I fight weeds all the time, sounds like we need more mulch!

Debbi February 1, 2014 at 12:52 pm

There is one problem with grass clippings and yard wastes- most people use some pretty nasty chemicals on their lawns and gardens. If you know the people do not, cool. Otherwise, you are adding some things to your soils you may not want. Some of the community compost piles in neighboring WA were found to contain herbicides from livestock (the manure component). GMO alfalfa and other feeds along with fields covered in herbicides, goes through the animal’s system and is still active in their manure. You cover your garden in this, and you get a dead garden. Be careful of what you use?

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