We are not to throw away those things which can benefit our neighbor. Goods are called good because they can be used for good: they are instruments for good, in the hands of those who use them properly.
- Clement of Alexandria
In the years I have been a landscape designer, one of the coolest perks that I usually get is first dibs on whatever my clients are removing from their yard. In the last five years there has been a glut of designs that I have done in yards that are removing their old decks to replace them with new faux wood products such as Trex or TimberTech. Now although these older decks that are being removed can be pretty rough stuff, and usually full of nails or screws, I find the majority of the material quite useful for my needs at the old homestead!
One thing about this type of wood is that it is pretty useless going to the dump or landfill, as it cannot be utilized in the composting and recycling programs of most US cities, being that the material is full of nails and other metal debris that cannot be chipped or broken down with the rest of the green waste. So seeing how my local waste facility ships all of its landfill by train to Utah I can feel pretty good about claiming and reusing this perfectly great material for my own needs!
Now my needs may definitely out weigh the needs of the vast majority of people out there, but I can assure you the savings I have made are in the several thousands of dollars at this point! So if you have kept up with me and my blogs you will know that I run a market farm in Napa for the local Farmers Market. My bounty of recycled wood (especially redwood!) from old decks and arbors have found a new life as raised planter beds, trellises and supports (for squash, beans, and tomatoes), and even chicken coops!
You do need to be a little careful about what types of wood you would use in your garden, especially wood that is in direct contact with the vegetables you are growing. For instance you would not want to use pressure treated wood or deck wood that has been waterproofed with chemicals in a raised planted as these chemicals will be directly in contact with your plants roots and could be metabolized by the plant and passed on through the food chain. A plastic liner also may be used inside the bed to deal with this issue … and may be quite useful in preserving the wood you are using for your raised bed as any contact to soil will expedite the rotting process of wood. Also be on the lookout for wood that has already started to decay or have dry rot… as there is probably a reason why the deck was removed in the first place!
So how about you? What garden delights have you saved off the scrap heap? This certainly isn’t restricted to decks and arbors as I have seen many things salvaged and made into wonderful points of interest and useable features in the landscape…..A wine bottle pathway for instance, or one of my favorite ideas… the bicycle garden is a unique treat on the eyes! I truly feel it is our obligation to do what we can to recycle and reuse things in our lives. Perhaps this is due to my guilt of filling the landfills for the last five years with diapers and pullups from my prodigy and this is my way of compensating my hit to the ecosystem. Or maybe I’m just overly frugal (ok cheap or poor from all those diapers is more like it!) and see each deck demo as a new treasure trove! I’m assuming its the later just due to my giddiness I feel when I come into a back yard and see the dilapidated state of a current deck or arbor and know that the client is looking to revamp those structures with new materials and designs.
So even if you are the person getting rid of such a structure or material… before hauling it away to the dump, perhaps post it on Craig’s list instead and more than likely you will make some salvager very happy and create less of an impact to our ecosystem, and your wallet!