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The Gardener’s Guide to Dumpster Diving
by Carl Wayne Hardeman

What? A perfectly good baked chicken container from Kroger! And someone threw it away, doomed to decompose in some lonely landfill for the next 3,000 years? They could have had their own mini-greenhouse to start seedlings in.

I am fortunate to find it, since it was under a mattress and inside the sixth black plastic bag I went through in that dumpster. Saved myself $5.99 plus tax at Wal-Mart, though the chicken was not as fresh.

Mimi, my wife, wanted to know what I was doing storing baked chicken containers in her sewing room. I asked her what she was doing sewing in my potting room. Mimi doesn’t appreciate that the lint from her skeins of yarn is fine organic material for making a fine mulch that will decompose readily into the humus I will be needing to start my free-range heirloom ’mater seeds in those discarded baked chicken containers.

Something told me to check out this dumpster since it was just down the street from the exclusive Snooty Oaks subdivision where the current and previous garden club presidents live.

I needed a tank of gas for my car and was looking for discarded furniture and auto parts to sell to master gardeners to use in their next advanced flower-arrangement class.

Rumor has it the local garden club had been in the area recently looking for discarded carpet to mulch their food pantry garden. One of their mottoes is: No Organic Material Left Behind. Carpet retains more water than an entire Red Hat Ladies Club. Using carpet as mulch reduces weeding and watering and hoeing. One of their guiding sustainable gardening principles is: Low maintenance is par for the course, but we’re shooting for a birdie!

It’s been a good haul tonight so far. I’ve scavenged nine sections of water hose totaling almost a dozen feet, a considerable pile of used aluminum foil, a rusty tomato cage and several colored bottles to make bottle trees to sell so I can buy another storage building for my patio.

The hose pieces, a little glue, some duct tape and an ice pick and I’ll have a variegated soaker hose in no time. The rusty tomato cage, a little sandpaper and ironed aluminum foil and I’ll have that new Christmas tree Mimi’s been wanting. She didn’t like the one I made out of old carpet padding and a broken camera tripod last year. Just as well since she suddenly needed to spend Christmas with her mother.

Dumpster diving is not all it’s hyped up to be. It’s hard work. You’ll learn new skills, like using seagrass string to secure abandoned shrubbery to the roof of your car and driving while hanging out the side window due to a roll of carpet draped across your car.

I’m thinking about writing a book on this very practical skill as soon as I find a working ballpoint pen and some decent looking paper one of these nights.


Carl Wayne tells us about himself:
"I write gardening articles for the Collierville, Tennessee, Independent, the Southaven, Mississippi, Press, and Desoto Magazine, all from a Southern perspective. I point out the correct pronunciation of ants (aints) and peonies (peOnies) and advise always to plant hydrangeas on the north side of the house. I've been in software development forty years, the last twenty with a large overnight express delivery company. I have taught computer science as adjunct faculty at local universities over twenty-five years. We have a small farm in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, where we raise a large garden with my in-laws. My in-laws were there when the REA strung the first electric wires in that area. They were killing hogs. That night for supper they had liver and lights."

Carl Wayne leads the Collierville (Tennessee) Victory Garden, and edits BodockPost.com. He is available to speak to groups at no charge. Contact him about visiting or volunteering for the Collierville Victory Garden or about speaking engagements at 901.485.6910 . . . or write him at mymaters@yahoo.com.

Read more of Carl Wayne's stories at USADS:
Southern Snakes
Me and Mimi in the Garden
Mississippi ~ the Soul of Dixie
Slide down my cellar door!
Green Landscaping ~ Eco-friendly gardening

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