09. Can I use garden waste?

Bokashi is the ideal way to deal with kitchen compost, but what about all the other waste that comes out of a garden? The stuff that usually forms the base of your garden compost.

Up to you, there’s no reason why you can’t do on having a traditional compost pile in some corner of the garden.

Using garden waste

But here’s a few other options.

Fresh green garden waste makes great mulch, you can use it directly in your beds.

The most valuable of all is grass clippings, these are so full of nitrogen and it’s nitrogen of the quick-release kind, so this means when you put fresh grass clippings round your plants, the plants will get fed more or less immediately. As the grass clippings turn brown and the layer becomes thinner, the goodness sinks down into the soil and feeds the plants.

The worms will help, pulling what they can down into the soil and feeding up on it.

The clippings will also help shield the soil, so that it loses less moisture to evaporation and stays cool in the summer. This will keep the worms and microbes closer up to the surface, doing their work, rather than diving for cover underground. We want them working, so whatever we can do to keep them employed the better.

As the clippings sink together you can top them up with more; use whatever you have available and make sure you get hold of your neighbor’s too if they’re not using them.

Be a bit careful with tiny seedlings, they might get choked on too much grass clippings, but you can thicken up the layer around them as they grow.

Another issue may be snails, if you have a problem with them in your garden. Let’s leave that for another section.

Other green garden clippings work much the same way.

Harvest scraps such as the extra leaves and stalks from vegetables you’re picking can just be left right where they are on the soil, around the plants. Much less work, and the goodness in them will be transferred directly to the remaining plants and surrounding soil.

Tear them up a bit, especially the bigger ones such as rhubarb leaves — this makes it easier for the worms and microbes to do their work and probably looks a little bit neater.

If you need to clear the area for whatever reason, scrape together the mulch and use it elsewhere.

Another great way of composting green waste directly is to dig it down at the same time as you dig down your bokashi. Let’s say you’re digging a trench for beans: dig the trench, layer in the green mulch, then cover over with the contents of the bokashi bin.

The green materials will add nutrients, structure and volume; the bokashi microbes will migrate to the new material and, while it won’t be a fermentation as such, you’ll get much more impact from the bokashi you’re digging down.

For very little work.

Bigger green waste, such as stalks from sunflowers and Jerusalem artichokes, can also be dug down directly.

You may want to collect them up in a pile somewhere (I usually do this on a bed that’s not currently in use so that nutrients from leaves etc can migrate down into the valuable soil in the bed) and use them when you’re preparing a new bed or remaking an old one.

Chop them up if you want, or just lay them down straight in the base of your ”project bed”. Top with more harvest or garden waste and as much bokashi as you can spare, this will activate the process. Mix with soil, cover and plant. It will all become great soil in the end, and nothing will have been wasted.

Besides, it’s a lot less work than moving things from pile to pile.

Leaves and wood chips

Brown waste can be used in a similar way, but the nutrients work a little differently. Green waste has a lot of nitrogen, gives the plants an immediate boost as well as providing a good mulch layer.

Brown waste, which includes autumn leaves, wood and bark chips, stalks and stems that have hardened, are all great sources of carbon.

Because they don’t have a lot of nitrogen they don’t feed the plant directly, but they do feed the soil by adding carbon, stucture, and a good meal for many of the micro creatures in the soil.

So add them where you can, in a way that works for you.

Sometimes, when I’m making a new raised bed, I start off with a few branches and a pile of wood chips, as well as any other bits and pieces I have lying around. I know that this material will sink together over the first year or two, so the bed will have to be topped up to the level I want.

This type of brown material tends to absorb nitrogen from the surrounding soil, so I also tend to overcompensate with nitrogen-rich materials when I’m filling the box.

An extra good dose of bokashi, or a lot of green materials, or maybe some horse manure if I have it available. Sometimes it may be enough with a couple of bottles of bokashi liquid, or a watering can or two of nettle or urine fertilizer. Whatever is available, basically.

But this type of woody, brown stuff makes a great base for a garden bed. It also makes great surface mulch.

The only think I’m a bit careful with is raspberry and blackberry stalks — they are so terribly invasive. Even when you think they’re dead, and you’ve buried them too deep to cause trouble, they still go on growing.

And once you’ve got them in your bed you’re in deep trouble. I usually dry them in the sun for a couple of months first. But I do have some trouble spots in my garden where I’ve learnt the hard way.

To my eternal regret…

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