Free compost and mulch

Organic matter and plenty of it! That’s the secret to building up a healthy soil. There is no shortage of soil improver products to buy, but why spend all that money when you can get it for free. The ‘burbs are literally littered with free organic matter.

Lets start with our own backyards. Grass clippings are great for making compost… if your neighbours are not using it, why not ask them to give it to you. Make a spot by the fence where they can tip it over to your side. Why stop there. You could offer to take their kitchen waste and prunings as well, or contact a local mowing contractor and ask them to drop a load or two at your front gate. It’ll save them money on tip fees.

Footpaths are natural collection points for tree leaves. Armed with a rake and a couple of big bags, you can quickly drag home loads of quality fill for the compost heap. It makes excellent mulch as well.

People who live by the ocean have access to lots of seaweed that’s been washed on the beach. This makes a wonderful soil improver, but before you go clearing the beach, check with your council. Some don’t allow it.

If you are lucky enough to have a horse stable or a zoo close by, it’s worth approaching the manager to see if you can come in and grab a load. Wood mills are a great source of free sawdust… just make sure you’re collecting shavings from non-treated timber. Coffee grinds make a great compost addition… ask your favourite café for the odd bucket or two and while you’re there, collect their old newspapers, shred them up and throw them in too.

Some tree loppers are happy to give away the odd load of chipped tree prunings. There’s also a website which acts as an online service that connects you up with sources of free mulch in your area. You simply register your details, go on a waiting list and get a call when a load is ready. There’s no guarantee, and you may also be required to pay a delivery fee.

Then of course there are the things you can grow yourself. Plants like comphrey, lemon grass and arrowroot lilies make are excellent sources of mulch and composting material that can be chopped back again and again. Then there are fast growing trees and shrubs like wattle, Calliandra and acalypha that can be pruned regularly and thrown on the garden.

Got some ideas of your own? Please add your comments below.

First published: June 2010

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Soil & Compost, All Gardens, Compost, Mulching, soil, pruning, soil improvers, recycling, How to…, Compost & soil
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