Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Quest for Crap--Seeking sources of free (or at least cheap!) compost

When I was imagining how the transformation from a typical trailer park lot to gorgeous garden would go, I was dreaming of lush, dark soil under the grass and weeds found in our lot that would grow beautiful veggies without any amendments at all.  "Dreaming" is the operative word, all right!  What I dug up was worm rich, so probably not completely devoid of nutrients, but it was extremely sandy in some areas and clay-y in others.  So much for not adding anything to the soil!

I don't actually know a lot about gardening, since most of what I learn is by bumbling through and a little half-assed internet research and a book or two thrown in, so I might be totally wrong, but I figured adding some compost would cure whatever ailed my soil, so I began questing for some.  Sure, I could go buy some, either from a home improvement store in little bags of about 40 lbs each or from a landscape company that would probably deliver it in some giant truck that would freak out my neighbors and perhaps bring more of an eye to what I'm up to than I'm ready for at this point.  Buying things is always my option of a last resort, though.

I've been keeping my eye on Freecycle for free compost and/or manure as well.  I responded to such a post a couple years ago, a shovel your own kind of deal, for horse manure, but when I got there, the lady who offered it wouldn't let me shovel it myself, since I was very visibly pregnant at the time.  She shoveled it into the bags I brought for me!  Bonus!  This year, I wasn't able to get any of the offers I saw on Freecycle, so I was starting to lose hope.

At the church auction a few days ago, I was extremely excited to see "horse manure, delivered" on the list of items to be auctioned off.  I excitedly bid on it, and won it for $30, which wouldn't have even covered the gas if I went to pick it up, since I'd have to take multiple trips fairly far away in my mini-van to get it.  However, the next day at church, I was crushed to discover that there had been a miscommunication and it couldn't be delivered.  Fortunately, they didn't still hold me to paying the $30, since that price was supposed to include delivery.  Unfortunately, that meant my quest for compost continued.
A "crapload" of composted chicken poop

I had another plan though.  My source for free eggs offered me the opportunity to clean out a corn crib they had used to keep naughty roosters away from the hens, a rooster prison, if you will.  It was quite a while ago that it had been used for this purpose, so the chicken poo was well composted and beautiful.  With the help of my mom and far, far too much "help" from my kids, we got it bagged up and brought home in my van yesterday.

Yay!  Quest complete...I think.  I'll be spreading it around my garden areas this afternoon and making sure I have enough.  If not, the quest continues!


  1. outstanding and congratulations. Ever think of making a roll around compost barrel out of an old trash can or 55 gallon drum? Sounds like it would be worth it to you. Also check out amending soil on Google and save some of that wonderful chicken poop to get it kicked started.. just a bit not a lot. and cardboard... ;)Worms are great... read up on vermiculture as well. its simple and sooo nice to get rich soil

  2. Another idea for free soil amendments, if you have a Starbucks in your neck of the woods they save and give out bags of used grounds for the asking.
    Also if you have a grocery who puts out bins for corn shucking sometimes they will let you take bags of husks which you can add as brown material to your compost for next year. Good luck!

  3. Great Idea about the garbage can compost bin. I use an old one myself, that I drag around the yard to where I need it. The bottom is cracked with holes in it so it has perfect drainage. I would also check out - Lasagna Gardening. She has lots of great ideas.

  4. Fantastic post! I'm so glad you managed to find some worthwhile "crap" for your garden - ha! Truly, what a great find, especially in light of the first deal falling through. I admire your resourcefulness!

    I made 3 compost bins out of "hardware cloth" and garden fencing material (similar to chicken wire) - they were both cheap at Lowes, and all I did was cut the fencing so that I could make a cylinder about 3 feet in diameter. Done. Works like a charm.

    Coffee grounds from you local coffee shop are a terrific idea, as is the corn husk suggestion. If there happens to be a place that makes fresh juice, that pulp would be a goldmine of "green" (nitrogen) stuff for making compost!

  5. I have a compost pile (euphemistically referred to as a "dirt pile" within potential earshot of the neighbors) set up behind the house that I'm hoping will keep me in enough compost to help keep the potato condo full and a vermiculture bin in the house, but for start up compost, I needed way more than they could give me for this year. I'm hoping those sources will keep me in maintenance compost for future plantings here.

  6. Oh, as for the coffee house suggestion, that would be wonderful if we lived somewhere remotely near a coffee shop, but I think the nearest one is at least 15 miles away, and I rarely wander that far anymore, with gas being what it is though! I probably should be firing up my own espresso machine more often though....