Compost, cheap and dirty
Most of us have not yet perfected our garden ecosystems to not need outside sources of compost to give our plants the fertility they need. If we have to bring compost or compost materials in, it might be a good idea to think about how we can source these materials cheaply, or better yet free!
Below is a list of where I can and sometimes do get some of my compost, mulch, and compost materials, and how much they cost me, and what I do with them.
1. Chicken manure- Free on site, composted in place
2. Grass clippings- Free on site, composted in place
Grass clippings composted in place next to plants (Right side of photo)
3. Fruit and vegetable scraps- Free on site, composted through the chickens
4. Junk mail- Free on site, composted in pile
5. Commercial chicken manure- $7 per ton from a local chicken farmer (I must supply the truck to pick up, and I must compost the manure very well, as the chickens were heavily medicated)
6. Wood mulch- $12 per ton from the local Lebanon County recycling facility
7. Compost- $12 per ton from the local Lebanon County recycling facility (The only drawback to this, is that the green waste that was used to make the compost may contain pesticides, as the feedstock comes from area residents and haulers.)
8. Wood piles- Free from a few neighbors. I would like to do a hugelkultur project at some point, and a few of my neighbors have good sized old wood piles that I’m sure they would be happy to let me have. I also know a local landscaper who said he would drop off wood at my house when he has tree work nearby.
9. Leaves- My neighbor blows all his leaves to the street for county pick-up in the fall. I’m sure he would not care if I took some. I have trees on my site, but they are still too small to generate leaves in much quantity. I like the idea of planting a few large deciduous trees downwind from my garden to harvest the leaves in place as mulch. I also like the idea of planting certain perennials that can be chopped and dropped to provide mulch to the nearby plants.
10. Human urine- Free on site, composted in place if diluted 10-1 with water.
11. Plant debris (Leaves and stems) – Free on site, and even better typically right next to where I want it to go.
The fast growing sunchoke hedge above is cut down periodically and the stems and leaves are used as mulch in the large adjacent garden bed