Trimming or pruning a plant is important so you can get rid of dead, damaged, weak or crossing branches, and help the plant breathe. An overgrown or densely grown shrub may not have good airflow, and that can be the cause of various plant diseases. Usually, most plants need a seasonal trim, but some plants (such as fast-growing houseplants) may need to be trimmed as often as once a month.
So, once you’ve trimmed your plants…what do you do with the trimmings? Most people probably throw them away, but there are lots of great ways to put them to use – which is what you should be doing if you want to be sustainable. In this blog, we want to share some ways to use plant trimmings, and then talk about why you should buy rice straws. Let’s get started!
How to use plant trimmings
Re some of the best ways to use plant trimmings, so you can get more out of your plants and turn your garden into something a lot more sustainable. You’ve probably thought of some of these, but some are sure to be a surprise!
This is an obvious one. Most people who can probably do compost any trimmings they have, but if you’re one of the few who can but just haven’t gotten round to doing it, do it today! A compost pile will save you lots of money down the road, and will take your garden a long way in becoming more self-sufficient.
To compost you’ll need some space, enough material for composting (remember to balance your browns and greens!), and patience. It’s a good idea to compost straight on the ground as opposed to in compost bins, because if your compost heap is on the ground, the earthworms in the neighbourhood will slowly make their way to it and help break the material down faster.
Use them as mulch
Most plant trimmings are great when used as mulch. This is especially true for leaves, which can form a sort of blanket over the soil, and prevent soil water evaporation. You’ll have to water a lot less, and the mulch will rot down in situ and feed your soil. Pretty much all plants can be used as mulch, so this doesn’t require much research.
We suggest separating branches and leaves, because the two take different periods of time to break down. If you have (or can find) a wood chipping machine, it’s a good idea to put any branches through it, so you have a fine layer of wood chips instead of hulking big branches that’ll take forever to biodegrade. Also remember to remove any seeds from the plant material (especially if it’s weeds).
By laying down a thick mulch, you’ll be able to smother weeds, which will help you pave your way towards no-dig gardening. It’s a lot less effort, and your back will thank you. Also buy our rice straws, so you can relax in your no-dig garden with a refreshing beverage.
This one’s a bit finicky because not all plants can be propagated from cuttings and there are a lot of ifs and buts when taking cuttings. If you trim a dormant plant, for instance, you aren’t likely to get much out of its cuttings. However, assuming you get green lights all the way, this is another fantastic way to use plant trimmings.
Look for solid, healthy branches. A lot of times, these are ones that you’ll remove for being overgrown or for crossing over. Keep them in a separate pile to save yourself time later. Then, prepare them to take cuttings, and then put them in water or potting soil and let them sit for a couple weeks. And there you go – you have a couple free plants out of trash!
Feed them to your pet
You’re probably looking at your dog going “Wtf?” but hear us out. We’re talking about herbivorous pets like rabbits and guinea pigs. This one again has a bunch of ifs and buts so you’ll need to do some research beforehand (pets can’t eat houseplants, for instance), but once you have it all figured out, it’s a great way to get some fertilizer (bunny poop) for free.
Leaves and twigs are great for most herbivores, and your chickens will love leftovers from the veggie garden. Members of the rodent family will also enjoy gnawing on branches to wear down their teeth. Instead of buying expensive chew toys, just give them a small branch from your recently-pruned fruit tree! Just make sure it’s safe for your pets first, however.
Make flower arrangements and bouquets
You can turn waste material into something beautiful by using colorful branches, leaves, twigs and cut flowers in flower arrangements. Even fruiting branches can be used. So if you’re deadheading flowers or giving trees a seasonal prune, look out for anything that still looks pretty.
It’s also recommended that you thin out the fruit from fruiting trees such as apples so they have more energy to put into a more manageable amount of fruit. When doing this, look out for pretty fruits such as berries which can form a nice accent spiller in flower arrangements. You can follow YouTubers such as Garden Answer for tips and inspiration. It’s great how almost anything from the garden can be turned into a beautiful, complete arrangement!
When you buy rice straws, you can also reuse them in your arrangements instead of cooking them. Just find a nice little spot for them, and tuck them in. Afterwards, they can go straight into the compost heap!
Use branches for support in the garden
Sturdy branches from shrubs and trees can be used instead of trellising in the garden. Putting up metal supports can be expensive, and you don’t want to waste that kind of money on something like tomatoes or peas. So, the next time you’re pruning your trees, look out for long, sturdy branches that can be used as support in the garden.
Just stick them into the ground, and tie the plant that needs support to them. In the case of vines or creepers, you can just wind them around the branch and they’ll find their way up in time. This makes use of garden waste, and you can use large branches from year to year. In fact, if you live in a dry area, your branches might last for as long as a decade without rotting! Go sustainability!
Use them to fill up containers
Filling up large containers can get expensive, because high-quality compost or soil mixes can cost quite a lot when you’re talking large amounts. So, here’s a neat little trick to cut down on the cost: Fill up the bottom half of the container with plant trimmings (including branches, logs, leaves – anything). Then fill the rest of the way with soil, and top up regularly with mulch to combat sinking.
In this method you’ll have to fill the container up all the way to the top because the plant material at the base will slowly decompose and sink. The container may also need topping up on a regular basis – but you can do that inexpensively with hay or plant matter. Using this method has two advantages other than cost savings: you use up garden waste, and the plant matter will slowly decompose and enrich the soil so your plants can root down deep.
Burn wood for ash
Wood ash is excellent fertilizer for certain plants (such as zucchini), so if you’ve been trimming or cutting down large trees, you can use up all the wood by burning it and sprinkling the ash around plants that’ll appreciate it. Wood is slow to rot down, so composting it isn’t a great idea, and if you don’t have a wood chip machine, you can’t mulch it either. Instead, use it this way. Store any excess ash you have for later.
Just make sure the plants you’re using it on like wood ash, because some plants such as potatoes can develop problems if they’re fed wood ash. Sprinkle it on the plant’s drip zone on a non-windy day, and scratch it into the soil gently so it doesn’t blow away. It’s also a good idea to water it in so it settles down further.
So, these were some creative ways to use plant trimmings at home or in the garden. There are many other ways to use them – Nature is a wonderful resource, and all you need to do is be a little creative.
Buy rice straws for a plastic-free Earth
Every time you use eco-friendly straws instead of disposable plastic ones, you’re helping reduce the plastic problem by a little bit. However, while reusable straws made out of metal, bamboo and glass are eco-friendly, they still have a large carbon footprint, and they aren’t very convenient. So, buy rice straws instead and you’ll thank yourself!