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Alot of people on gardenweb seem to know of a location to get free compost as well as free mulch. I don't know where to begin looking, I saw your posting under a search I did for organic gardeners and thought that someone here should know this answer. Is there a city or county agency that would have these answers? I've seen the trucks that say free mulch, call ??????, but have never had a pen to jot the number down correctly. What about the parks dept, the sewer or water companies, I would be greatful for any info,
It is usually the city that will provide these items. Typically what I have found is that they are big piles of mulch (usually all the tree trimmings from parks, and power lines). Call your city offices, power company or even local water company and you should be able to get some information. Usually they want you to come and load it up and take it away.
THere is some sewage used for compost, but it is treated and typically sold in the stores.
Many municipalities now collect yard and tree trimming wastes, grind them up and make high quality compost. Others just grind the material, stack, sift and sell yard mulch. In other localities private producers of mulch and finished compost sell material in bulk for reasonable charges sometimes.
Check with your local tree trimming companies for shedded tree material tha is free or available for small charge.
These can be used as coarse surface mulches or be added to compost piles as bulk carbon sources.
In the Fall many cities and towns collect leaves and yard waste and stack overwinter -- this material is not fully composted when redistributed in Spring but can be added to your compost piles for finishing or applied as surface mulch.
Call you local public works department to find a municipal source of _finished_ compost that is not _co-composted_ with sewage sludge (=biosolids). This co-composted product might be fully safe if well prepared and well tested for heavy metals and pathogens.
Here in Michigan many cities provide compost to residents.
I have used it on my non-food plants I do not use it on my vegtables due to the fact that many people use chemicals on their lawns and I do not want to take a chance on using it on fruits and vegtables.
The compost that I have gotten is of a excellent texture and had worked very well on flowers.
when we built our raised beds i called the horse farms in the area and asked if i can come raid their manure piles. they said sure when we arrived we saw a giant mountain of this black dirt. wow. i have the best beds around. DIRT FREE LOL.
I have two horses that produce A LOT! Right now I use the manure fresh as I am starting new beds for spring planting. I am sheet composting in these beds and the fresh manure will be ready for planting in 6 months or so. If I use the manure in existing beds I compost it first. I have used it after only a month of composting in flower beds and I have had no problem at all, I add a little bone meal and maybe a little alfalfa meal depending on the plants needs. Typically I let it sit much longer if possible for the best compost product.
For several years I have used compost from our local Waste Treatment/Green Waste Facility. They combine the Bio Waste with green waste (grass clippings, leaves, ground up branches, flower and vegetable plants and other garden waste.) I love it for my yard. It contains some small fragments of wood which I like to loosen up my clay soil. There is a long running gardening call in show here hosted by a well known and respected man who is a county agent and works for Utah State University. He is frequently asked about this compost and said that state law requires that it be tested for heavy metals and pathogens before it can be sold. $20 a yard. I put a yard on two empty beds yesterday and will dig it in tomorrow so it can continue to break down all winter. Will plant my iris seedlings there next spring. I also compost in the yard but can produce only a small portion of what I need.
I laid down several sheets of paper over the grassy area that I marked out as a new bed. On top of that I spead out 3-4 inches of fresh horse manure, then 3-4 inches of chopped leaves and topped it with grass clippings. It is pretty high right now but should settle to half the height by Spring. You can till it in or just plant directly into the compost Spring time.
That sounds fantastic!
So for Sugar's question, it sounds like 3-4 inches of manure would be certainly safe. There's a lot of variability in that but 3-4 inches sounds like plenty of work for one season to me. And she'll want it to be all aged before she starts planting any edibles especially.
In my vegetable garden I use only well aged manure...just to be safe. I have my kids dump the daily wheel barrel of manure in the bed while I am working on it so I don't have to do all the hard work. :-)