User avatar
LazyGirl
Cool Member
Posts: 65
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:55 pm
Location: Livermore

Ideas for free compost material sources

I live in suburbia and don't have a large yard to generate a lot of compost material. As I wanted to step up my compost production, I got crafty about finding alternate sources of material for my pile. I wanted to share some free sources of compost materials and was hoping other people could add their resources as well. In my 6 mo or so of composting, I have found the following great sources of materials to add to my compost pile:

Make friends with your neighbors - I get their grass clippings and fallen tree leaves. I do ask if they use weed killer chemicals on their lawn though as I don't want the residue in my pile.

Coffee grounds - I get them by the trashbag full from the local coffee shop. The Starbucks employees benefit because they don't have to bag the grounds into the 5lb foil bags, I just take the whole lot for them!

firewood guy - he has a lot of wood bits around from splitting logs. I asked him if he could bring this by with the cord of wood he delivered. He was surprised and happy to get rid of it.

Old Christmas trees - Not sure yet if the 10 trees my fiance collected will be in a separate pile or added to the existing ones, but these are plentiful right now. You will need a chipper though (which we just picked up today - Yeah!)

I don't know anybody with horses or cows, but if I did I would be asking them if I could have some manure.
I heard some people get rabbit droppings and hay from animal rescues. My guess is that they would also happy with a way to dispose of the waste.

Any other ideas/suggestions would be appreciated!

cynthia_h
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7501
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

Since there are wineries in Livermore, ask them if they have grape pomace available after the harvest.

Since you have a chipper/shredder, you might also ask about grapevine prunings.

I hope you have a pickup truck to haul this stuff! You'll be making some--ah--smokin' compost. (Just a figure of speech; don't want any spontaneous combustion!)

Don't forget your own kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, etc.

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

User avatar
LazyGirl
Cool Member
Posts: 65
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:55 pm
Location: Livermore

Cynthia, thanks for the great ideas! I will look into the winery byproducts.

We do add the kitchen scraps as well, along with the veggie garden wastes and other household compostable materials.

Keep the freebie ideas coming! :D

TZ -OH6
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2097
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 11:27 pm
Location: Mid Ohio

Many places have compost facilities for yard waste and tree trimmings. Ours is run by the county. The chipped "mulch" is free, but may need more time for full composting. You can usually look up the specifics on the web.


You can also check with your county fairgrounds for manure/stall bedding. We have race horse stables associated with ours so there is year round manure, but the pile is really huge following the county fair.

User avatar
CharlieK
Senior Member
Posts: 163
Joined: Sat May 17, 2008 8:32 am
Location: Covington, LA USA

Instead of buying a bale of hay from your Feed and Seed for browns, ours let us go into the trailer and sweep up all the floor waste we can haul. We have never had to buy, we also do business there for other things.
I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than of cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs. Addison

rot
Greener Thumb
Posts: 728
Joined: Wed Sep 24, 2008 5:15 am
Location: Ventura County, CA, Sunset 23

these jeans were made for rotting

I threw in a pair of jeans in one of my cold 2 year cycle bins. We'll see if there's anything left beyond the zipper.

annafaie
Cool Member
Posts: 79
Joined: Mon Dec 08, 2008 3:40 pm
Location: Richardson, TX

My husband and I both have asked the deli's in our office buidlings to save their fruit and veggie clippings daily! That has worked out really well b/c we're already at work and don't have to travel for the free items.

Also, we have a fish tank and our neighbor has a coy pond with a large filter....so when it's time to change/clean the tank/filters....guess where all that fish-poop-water goes? Straight into our compost pile. That poses a question from me...do you think it's ok to water our veggies with the poop-water? Would it hurt them?

Anna
Thanks! Anna

2cents
Green Thumb
Posts: 616
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 2:04 pm
Location: Ohio

Anna,

Is the Coy pond water ammended with any chemicals?
Ask before you leap.

I am not a chemist, but the fish water would tend to be diluted.
Often times fish water gets a little high on the PH and ammonia build up.

Be careful. I would look deeper into the science of this issue first.

Composting is always the safest way to go. Even letting it sit in buckets before adding to the compost maybe a good idea.

Best of luck
IMHO

Jalopy19
Cool Member
Posts: 73
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2009 3:49 am
Location: Wichita, KS

Fish water would definitely be high in nitrogen, so just know you are adding nitrogen to your pile. (similar to urine in that case)
USDA Zone 6b

User avatar
LazyGirl
Cool Member
Posts: 65
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:55 pm
Location: Livermore

I've had fish tanks forever and typical levels for nitrogen (in the form of Nitrates) are ~50ppm for a heavily stocked pond. Ammonia levels should be very low if the filters are running as all the ammonia gets converted into nitrate. Hope that helps.

When I do water changes, I use the fish water to water my plants. The plants seem to like it. :D

annafaie
Cool Member
Posts: 79
Joined: Mon Dec 08, 2008 3:40 pm
Location: Richardson, TX

Thanks Lazygirl! We've got a massive filter. I'm glad to have a use for all that water we get when we clean the tankand/or filter.
Thanks! Anna

Rob_NZ
Full Member
Posts: 39
Joined: Sat Feb 07, 2009 7:23 am
Location: New Zealand

I think the ultimate freebie is leaf-fall.

Come Autumn/Fall I scoop bags and bags worth of the stuff up, get it all laid out in one of the paddocks, give it all a good chop-up with the lawnmower and stuff it all into plastic refuse sacks. Pile the bags up out of site and open them 9 months to year later and voila - the black stuff you buy from gardening outlets, lol. I do leave the leaves that fall and stay beneath my trees though so they benefit themselves. Even small quantities are good if you have a worm farm. Raid your bags and pop it in wet, you'll hear music and see disco lights as your worms dance all night...

... :? What was that mushroom?

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 28047
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

I've no solid basis for this, but out of caution against bacteria, aquatic parasite, amoeba or other contamination, I've always used the filter rinse water on my fruit trees and shrubs, rather than on vegetable garden. I've also used the water for the compost pile. Wasn't there an outbreak of contaminated bagged lettuce a while bag from the packers using "dirty" water to wash them with? Don't want anything like that from my own garden! :roll:

Gutholm
Newly Registered
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Feb 16, 2009 4:05 pm
Location: Michigan

What about banana peals are those good to compost?

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 28047
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Banana peels are GREAT in compost! Breaks down very quickly.
I once read that (details are a bit fuzzy) the head gardener at one of New York's botanical gardens had a habit of burying his daily lunch banana peel at the base of his favorite rose bushes. :lol:

User avatar
LazyGirl
Cool Member
Posts: 65
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:55 pm
Location: Livermore

Thanks Applestar for the warning about potentially bad bacteria in the fish water.

A brief internet search on human pathogens in fish tank water lead to [url=https://www.freshwater-aquarium-fish.com/articles/human_aquarium_pathogens.htm]this article[/url]:

Looks like there is a chance of salmonella being in the water. :shock: I would HOPE that restricting the water and filter rinse to the compost pile and fruit trees would be ok. An internet search on composting to remove salmonella indicates that a hot pile will destroy the bacteria but it is unclear if the bacteria is killed in a more typical cool pile. :?

I should have elaborated earlier when I said I watered my plants with aquarium water - I was referring to the houseplants. Until I find out otherwise I will NOT be using it to water my veggies (and I'm not sure on the compost pile now either)!

Any insight here on eliminating salmonella from compost or landscape water would be appreciated. It would be a shame to restrict this nitrogen rich source to only landscape shrubs!

2cents
Green Thumb
Posts: 616
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 2:04 pm
Location: Ohio

Lazygirl,

Thank you for the website.
I guess the aquarium water can harbor several types of nasties. :shock: What could we treat our aquarium water with to innoculate the unwanted bacteria and the like, so we can use it on the garden?
Any ideas? :?:
I wonder what temperature the hot pile has to get upto to kill the salmonella?

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 28047
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

This might be a radical 8) idea, but I don't think it's always about "killing" the "bad" bacteria. What kills bad bacteria can also kill GOOD bacteria. What we think of as bad -- salmonella, e. coli, anthrax, ... whatever ... are naturally OUT there (oops! a bird pooped in my pile! :lol:), but a sufficiently diverse compost community would provide competition against or even overcome the offenders so that live compost would still be safer than dead contaminated soil, or, in this case, "unprocessed" (i.e. not having passed through the composting process) suspect material straight into the veg garden. JMO :wink: Don't get me wrong, hot compost is great if you can achieve it, but for the rest of us :roll: , I'm just saying we don't have to sweat it as long as we're not overloading the pile with concentrated BAD stuff. (Again, JMO)

User avatar
Lupinus
Full Member
Posts: 58
Joined: Fri Feb 13, 2009 12:12 am
Location: Upstate SC

Check out local grocery stores veggie departments. Some will be happy to give the rotten veggies/clippings away for free or next to nothing. Saves them the work of hauling it out to the dumpster, and means less trash so it's cheaper for them.

If they do charge you for the stuff, figure out the math before buying loads of it. Sometimes what seams really cheap isn't when you compare it to what you can buy good soil for (provided you have a local source of course)
By cultivating the beautiful we scatter the seeds of heavenly flowers, as by doing good we cultivate those that belong to humanity.
Robert A. Heinlein

User avatar
Lupinus
Full Member
Posts: 58
Joined: Fri Feb 13, 2009 12:12 am
Location: Upstate SC

Best compost source?

Get a few apple or pear trees, all the compost you'll ever need.

Leaves and fall greens :mrgreen:

Add a friend with a horse and two ponies and you're even more set :twisted:
By cultivating the beautiful we scatter the seeds of heavenly flowers, as by doing good we cultivate those that belong to humanity.
Robert A. Heinlein

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

good compost

beyond the coffee grounds (we make coffee every day at work, sometimes twice, I just bring in a bucket for people to put the grounds in), I have a pond at the bottom of our hill that tends to get covered in duckweed. I take a net and skim the duckweed off and throw it in the compost. Not only is it high in nitrogen, but it breaks down very easily into a very fine soil, like potting soil and seems to help everything else break down too...

Ve3hbj
Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Mar 02, 2017 3:36 am

Re: Ideas for free compost material sources

I realize this is an ancient thread but the principal of aquaponics is using fish waste to grow vegetables. I would have to think cleaning your filter and using the water to heat up your compost pile would be a great use for said water. Or pour it right In your garden.

If your concerned about salmonella or other things like ecoli use a dripper system and keep it away from the edable parts. But as was said above the soil is full of bacteria as long as you aren't seeding your bed with very high levels of offending bad bacteria it will be taken care of. This is also why we are supposed to wash our veggies before consumption. Never mind the bird that left you a present on your tomato or lettuce. Just my 2c worth.

Return to “Composting Forum”