Garden Q&A: Is your recycle bin full? Give trash a second chance in the yard – The Florida Times-Union

garden-q&a:-is-your-recycle-bin-full?-give-trash-a-second-chance-in-the-yard-–-the-florida-times-union

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Recently, it’s been a challenge to find a single Jacksonville neighborhood not affected by the interruption of curbside waste service. The yard waste summer pile up of 2021 has now interrupted the household curbside recycling program.All of this got me to thinking, “What do I currently have in my bin that could instead be used in/on top of the ground?” A quick assessment of my bin’s contents probably resembles yours with products made of paper, cardboard, carton and plastic. At least half of my discards could be upcycled or repurposed with just a little extra effort.Last Saturday’s gardening article by Master Gardener Becky Wern told readers why and what elements convert average dirt to fertile soil. I'll expand upon that and identify some of your routine discards that can enrich your soil while saving you money.If it is unclear if your current soil is more acidic or alkaline, your local extension office can help. Free pH soil testing is a master gardener service. For a nutritional breakdown of a soil sample, the University of Florida performs this testing for a nominal charge. To learn more, go to https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/duval/lawns-gardens-and-trees/agriculture-diagnostics-and-testing/.In accordance with Waste Pro protocol, the following items are considered acceptable for intake: glass, papers, metals, cartons and plastics. So, let’s talk paper, metal, aluminum and plastics: Cardboard/fiberboard/paperShipping boxes without heavy printing, cardboard, fiberboard and newspaper can be utilized several ways. After stripping the boxes of any packing tape, cardboard can be used in sheet mulching, or what also referred to as “lasagna gardening.”Laying cardboard as sheet mulching releases carbon into the soil when pressed into the earth. Simply lay flat cardboard in your grassy or cleared area, water it thoroughly and place heavy objects (such as rocks, planters) around the bed to keep it in place. Accomplishing this task in the fall will allow nutrients to breakdown by the spring for tilling weed-free. Smaller cardboard pieces positioned around plants and shrubs work the same to eliminate pre-emerging weeds. Newspaper- and brown paper bag-weed barrier have been popular alternatives to landscape fabric and chemical control.Considering pavers for a walkway or porch? Placing cardboard as a conduit between the ground and the introduction of the hardscape material quells future weeds.Adding shredded junk mail and newspaper to your compost station provides organic matter that can be relocated to multiple areas or containers after decomposition. To learn more about the many different composting methods and the process, please visit https://wec.ifas.ufl.edu/extension/gc/harmony/waste/composting.htmCartonsNon-Styrofoam egg cartons serve many functions for gardeners. If you plant a fruit or nut tree, establish a trench that is locked in with egg cartons. Insert the cartons end to end around the potential dripline of a tree to create a buffer which keeps weeds from competing with tree roots.After the new year, start sowing herb, vegetable or annual flower seeds in the bottom trays of egg and juice cartons and/or simply store collected seeds in them for future plantings. Styrofoam cartons qualify for use here. For more ideas on saving seeds in household items, go to http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/hortdept/2020/09/14/tips-for-the-student-gardener-diy-seed-starting-containers/.Aluminum foilIf you didn’t before, start collecting aluminum foil from your winter holiday feasts to reuse for seedlings in early spring. Foil wrapped around the inside of cardboard trays create light refracting boxes for seedlings. As sun or artificial light bounce off the aluminum foil, it increases the intensity of light to warm the soil. All parts of the seedlings receive the boost thus improving your overall germination rate.Wrapping the base of trees and shrubs with aluminum foil continues to be a common practice to deter deer, rabbit, voles or other rodents that may chew on the tree in winter. During the day, the foil’s refracted light cools the soil, thus retaining moisture. Fruit growers hang foil strips in their trees to scare away birds that may eat blossoms and fruit. Don’t like the foil look? Shred it and mix in the mulch or inside your plant containers. Harmful pests that live under the leaf tops will not appreciate it, but the extra heat will help butterflies and moths dry out their wings.Plastics and metal products made of various plastic sources are numerically labeled. The city will recycle plastics numbered 1, 2, 3, 5 or 7. From this selection, your laundry detergent, milk jugs, plastic produce bags and food storage containers can tolerate extreme heat and are safe to use in the ground. Crafty DIYer’s repurpose jugs and containers into homemade flowerpots, watering cans, and birdfeeders. Clean steel/tin cans double as small plant containers, gifts when dressed up. Establish a few drainage holes in the bottom and add shredded newspaper or other organic material before adding soil.The short list of recycle rejects remains the same for curbside service: batteries, Styrofoam, plastic bags and aerosol containers should never find their way into your big yellow-lidded can.Reusing your grass clippings and yard trimmings back into your soil is one of the 9 Florida-Friendly Landscaping principles. Eco-friendly gardeners are always creating smart, helpful ways to repurpose acceptable recyclables. There exists the opportunity to help yourself and your city by reducing the volume of recycling waste yet to be collected and processed.On average, Americans increase their trash output by 25% during the last two months of the year. As we barrel into the holiday season, consider repurposing torn gift wrap or composting your live Christmas tree and garland. Nature does the hard work; all you have to do is discard it back to the earth to benefit everyone and everything.Candace Barone is a Master Gardener Volunteer with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS. For gardening questions, call the Duval County Extension Office at (904) 255-7450 from 9 a.m. to noon and 12: 30 to 3: 30 p.m. Monday-Friday and ask for a Master Gardener Volunteer.
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