Recycle, reuse and grow

By From page B1 | December 27, 2013

A community partnership created a garden at the El Dorado Disposal — a garden of flowers, vegetables and ideas — to  demonstrate ways of looking at what we throw away in a different light.

In May, Debi Harlow, community relations manager at El Dorado Disposal, made a few calls. “We had an old garden that had fallen into disuse behind our office.We wanted to show what community partnerships can do and educate people about recycling and growing their own vegetables.”

The garden had been former El Dorado Disposal owner, Ozzie Scariot’s, favorite way to blow off steam and in the years since Scariot and his partner Harry DeWolf, sold the garbage company, the garden had become overgrown and lost to disuse.

With help from El Dorado County Master Gardeners, Mother Lode Rehabilitation Enterprises and a donated wooden apple box from Rainbow Orchards, the disused garden area was transformed into neat planter boxes set into pea gravel, a vermaculture center, and a sitting area with pallet chairs, bird feeders,wind chimes and flowers.

Brandon Kime, Jesse Owens and Wes Heath, a grounds maintenance crew from MORE built the redwood planter boxes, spread the pea gravel and bark, put in a drip irrigation system, planted the plants and built  chairs from recycled pallets. Master Gardener Robin Stanley and her husband delivered the apple box for the worm bin and brought wood shavings to put inside.

Master Gardener Cindy Young, also known as the Compost Queen, suggested the worm bin for the demonstration garden. On Wednesday as the Mountain Democrat toured the garden, she and fellow Master Gardener, Gerry Knapp, toted two barrels of apple peelings and cores from Boa Vista Orchards over to the worm bin.

“I stopped by on my way over,” said Young, “and picked this up for free. You can get all kinds of organic materials if you ask.”

The proper mixture of greens (nitrogen) and browns (carbon) is what constitutes proper worm food, said Knapp. The current layer of fallen leaves in the bin is too much carbon and more “salad” is needed, so the apple peelings are added immediately.

“A little bit of worm dirt is like adding ‘Miracle Grow’ to a garden,” said Stanley.

“Gerry stops by when he has to drop something off at the transfer station and checks to see whether we are taking care of the worms correctly,” said Harlow. “I’ve been going into classrooms for about 10 years talking to them about recycling and worm composting. We used to buy worms to give to classrooms with gardens, but now we grow our own.”

Classrooms that want to start their own worm bin or add worms to their gardens can get a plastic container full of shredded newspaper and worms free from El Dorado Disposal.

Harlow and Nashelle Roth, who acts as tour guide for students visiting the facility, learn about not loading the worm bin with too many leaves. Plants pulled out of the garden at the end of summer can go into the worm bin as “green” food unless they are completely dead and dried out and then they become “browns.”  Coffee grounds are considered “greens,” said Gerry Knapp.

“We  put in our shredded documents from the office as long as there is no plastic,” said Harlow. “This has been a learning experience for us too. Our summer garden had some problems with the drip system, but we fixed them and now we have a winter garden of cabbage, cauliflower, celery, lettuce and spinach.”  Some of the harvest will go to MORE for their cooking classes; some will go home with El Dorado Disposal employees.

“When we take kids on a tour of the transfer station, we stop here first, ” said Harlow.  Roth acts as tour guide, teaching students how worms are a different way of recycling. ” They eat the organic materials from our garbage and produce castings — worm poop — that is good for our gardens,” said Roth. “They love it when I say ‘worm poop.’”

The  redwood planters serve an important purpose. “With the planters, we show kids how, even if they don’t have a yard, they can still grow their own vegetables and flowers in a 2-by-3-foot planter or a box,” said Harlow.

Stanley said, ” It’s really amazing how much you can grow in a small space.” Stanley suggested adding a trellis, another simple way to add planting space in a small area. A tire makes another easy planter, as demonstrated by a painted pink tire filled with moss roses, and painted tin cans hanging from a child’s bicycle tire in a tree make a planter for pansies or a unique wind chime. Other examples of repurposed materials, like the bird feeder made of an old lamp globe and a pie dish from Flowers on Main and another made from a big dish fill in spaces between the liquid amber trees in the sitting area.

The pallet chairs painted midnight blue with white flowers, are an immediate eye catcher in the garden and a clever way of keeping old pallets out of the landfill. “We have lots of pallets at MORE, and these chairs were simple to build,” said Chris Bailey, supervisor for the MORE landscape maintenance crew.

The three-man crew of Kime, Owens and Heath are responsible for building almost everything in the garden and they do grounds maintenance around the office and garden every Tuesday.”The hardest job was putting down all the gravel and the bark, ” said Kime. “It was really hot that day.”

“We really appreciate all the help we got to put this garden together,” said Harlow.”It’s a great way to show kids what you can do to recycle and grow your own food.”

To tour the Idea Garden, set up a classroom visit from Debi Harlow or tour the transfer station, please call El Dorado Disposal at 530 295-2818.

Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.

Wendy Schultz

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