Green Waste

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Green waste is a fancy term for the plant parts we cut off and send to that magical place called "away." Sometimes green waste ends up in landfills, and sometimes it comes back to us as mulch. But the truth is that, in most cases, green waste doesn't need to exist in the first place. It's caused by poor design that puts plants in spaces that are too small for their eventual size, requiring the gardener to trim or prune the plant to fit the size the gardener wants it it be (instead of the size the plant has evolved to be). Plants all have genetic destinies to develop in certain time-honored ways. They grow to fulfill their destinies, often to the detriment of the garden and the gardener. Want proof? I once saw a hedge made of young redwood trees (you know, the ones that grow 30-foot trunks?). Fifty-four of these trees were placed a foot apart in a tiny planter space only 8 inches wide. What do you suppose the people who created this landscaping nightmare were thinking?

Placing the wrong plant in the wrong place is just one example of the commonest of garden afflictions. Other examples include planting invasive vines, choosing spreading junipers for 5-foot-wide parkways, using trees as hedges, picking tall shrubs as ground covers, and planting any plant that has an indeterminate growth habit (no reasonable limits to its ultimate size).

The existence of green waste is caused by other factors as well. Consider, for example, over-watering and over-fertilizing. Both make plants grow faster and bigger. Sometimes that's a good thing, but excess growth that just needs to be cut off and thrown away creates problems (without any benefits).

MJEff When you design your garden, carefully check the ultimate size of the plants you select, and then locate them so they have enough room to grow. If the plant will grow too large for the space you're considering, choose another plant — one that will fit — instead. This is one of the truly essential ideas of the sustainable landscape. Imagine how much time you'll save by maintaining a garden that requires little or no pruning to control size.

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