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San Antonio's Brush Centers Attract Long Lines After Winter Storm Killed Plants Across The City

San Antonio's two major brush centers are seeing lines of trucks hail in piles of limbs from dead trees and bushes killed during February's winter storm.

The city's two major brush centers are seeing lines of trucks haul in piles of limbs from dead trees and bushes that were killed off during February's record winter storm.

Record lows were broken for five or six consecutive days. It was below freezing at San Antonio International Airport for a total of four days and 12 hours, one hour shy of the record continuous cold spell of 1951, according to the National Weather Service.

Even some large mature plants were not spared. Many residents started pruning back dead branches in mid-March after seeing no signs of new growth. Piles of dead brush at homes has been mounting.

"Everybody lost so much of their landscaping that the tonnage and participation at our drop off centers, our brush recycling centers has really skyrocketed," said Marcus Lee, a spokesman for the city's solid waste management department.

Business is brisk at the Bitters Brush Recycling Center at 1800 Wurzbach Parkway and at the Nelson Gardens Brush Recycling Center at 8963 Nelson Road. The hours of operation early this summer are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Sunday.

Lee said loads are weighed, and there is a fee that is charged for each 20 pounds of debris that is hauled in.

Residents who haul in brush to the city's brush recycling centers must make sure those loads are covered as required by city code or risk a fine, Lee said. He added that residents should a photo ID and a CPS Energy bill as proof of local residency.

Those who need further assistance can call 311 for an out-of-cycle brush pickup from their homes. There is a charge of $50 for up to four cubic yards and then a $25 dollar charge for each additional four cubic yard.

If the debris is largely dead leaves, residents can also call 311 and schedule a leaf collection. He said the first two leaf pickups are free, but a third request or more are billed for $20.

Lee said residents should rake leaves into brown leaf disposal bags specially designed for such a purpose. The city will not take leaves in plastic bags, noting that even those marked as biodegradable do not decompose.

Residents can also reduce piles of brush by trimming them into limbs of three feet or less to put in their green organics cart, but those carts should not be overstuffed and the lids must be able to close.

The carts will be picked up on the regular scheduled days, but Lee asked for patience because of all the dead debris being placed curbside.

"We will get to it. If the route is behind, give it to five in the afternoon before you report it to 311 as a missed collection, we may just be a little bit behind," he said.

Residents also have the option of waiting for one of the city's two major curbside brush pickup days. Lee said there will be a tag on residents' doors when their neighborhood is scheduled.

All the debris coming into brush recycling sites is being turned into mulch, which residents can pickup for free in the coarse variety. Fine ground mulch come in 20 pound increments for a small fee.

Both help landscaping retain moisture during San Antonio's long, hot summer months.

All those dead plants has led to a planting boom, too. Local nurseries, like Rainbow Gardens, set some sales records in March.

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Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian