Perhaps you’re new to creating compost, or you need to fill an area larger than your current compost production can support, but a time will come when you’ll need to find a source of outside compost. You can purchase compost at your local garden supply center, but this can be costly if you need a large amount. Where do you find compost that won’t kill your budget?

Local Farm

Local farms will always have a steady supply of manure and soiled bedding. In some cases, they may have a composted manure pile that you can pull from, but most fresh manure will need to be aged before you use it. Fresh manure can be spread onto gardens in the fall, when the garden is planted in the spring. You should plan to let manure sit for 3-4 months before your growing season to use or plant in it.

You’ll need to take something with you when you collect the manure. Depending upon the amount you plan to pick up, this could be a bucket, plastic bin, trash can, or a pickup truck. You’ll want to put down a tarp to protect the rest of your vehicle if any of the manure happens to spill out of its container.

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Learn More: Using Manure in the Home Garden

Mushroom Farms

Mushroom compost is a rich, organic material that is used to grow mushrooms. Mushroom farms remove and dispose of this compost after every batch of mushrooms are harvested. Some of the nutrients are spent, but it still makes a useful amendment to garden beds.

Because the compost is made with a high level of organic material, it’s very rich and retains a lot of moisture. It is useful for improving poor soil or loosening hard, compact soil; however, it should not make up more than 1/4 of your soil mixture when it’s used in containers or raised beds.

Find Your Local Mushroom Farm: Mushroom Farms

Learn More: Mushroom Compost – Frequently Asked Questions

Local Landfill

Most landfills have a program where they collect yard waste and tree trimmings from local residents and tree companies. The materials are piled and composted in an area of the landfill separate from the rest of the garbage. This compost is often available to local residents for free.

You will need to bring your own containers to collect the compost, as well as gloves and a shovel or broad fork. Some landfills may load customers as a courtesy, but you should also be prepared to load yourself. The landfills usually have rules against garbage in the yard waste, but it’s still possible that you may need to pick out some litter. Always wear gloves when handling the compost.

Contact your local landfill for more information.

Community Gardens

Community gardens will often have their own composting programs in place. The compost is a benefit to the garden, but they will usually produce more compost than they need. In an effort to raise money for the garden, the organizers will sell some of their excess compost. Contact your local community garden to see if this is a service they offer.

Find your local community garden: American Community Garden Association

Local Zoo

Zoos produce a large amount of manure, so it makes sense that they would jump on the compost bandwagon. This highly sought after compost from the world’s largest herbivores is usually offered once a year as part of a lottery system. Interested gardeners can submit their names for the chance to purchase the “zoo doo.” The manure is usually inexpensive and already composted. Contact your local zoo to see if they have a program in place.

Example: Fecal Fest at the Woodland Park Zoo

Compost is an inexpensive way to benefit your soil and plants. While not everyone can produce the large quantities of compost that they need, there are resources available to obtain high quality compost for a low cost.

What is your strategy to get compost for your garden? Have you found another unique source not mentioned here? Leave a comment below and tell us about it.

Read: Low-Maintenance No-Till Gardening

Read: Beginner’s Guide to Growing Tomatoes

Broad fork in a garden compost bin - 5 Little Known Ways to Find Cheap Compost
Broad fork in a garden compost bin - 5 Little Known Ways to Find Cheap Compost
Broad fork in a garden compost bin - 5 Little Known Ways to Find Cheap Compost
Broad fork in a garden compost bin - 5 Little Known Ways to Find Cheap Compost