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Compost on the cheap

There are a few ways to acquire compost. You can buy it, you can borrow it (it’s the giving it back that’s hard) or you can make it.

Although Steve and I finally decided it was time to make the leap to making it via a compost pile, that wasn’t going to do us any good as the planting season got underway. We had to come up with an interim solution.

Thanks to a comment from Don and some helpful suggestions from members of the Iowa City Freecycle listserv, I learned the Johnson County Landfill offers compost for next to free. All you need is a truck.

Unfortunately, trucks aren’t free. Nor do we own one.

“Maybe I could line some of our big pots with plastic garbage bags and go get some,” Steve offered. “After all, you said I have the Dirt Car.”

I looked up the information online and learned that, in fact, you can get up to 200 pounds of compost from the landfill for $1.

Yes, I said $1. Now I understand why Don said it’s cheaper to just go get a truckload there than to mess with making it on one’s own.

Compost potsSo, yesterday, Steve took a trip out to the landfill and picked up three pots of compost for our spring planting needs.

“Did you have any problems?” I asked when I got home.

“Not at all,” Steve said.

“How much did it cost you?”

“Nothing,” he said. “No one stopped me when I drove in, I followed the signs to the compost pile, I took some out of the pile marked ‘Finished Compost’ and I left.”

This afternoon, as I stood in line at the nearby Earl May Garden Center with a couple of bags of potting soil in my arms, I overheard a customer ask where the compost was.

“Over there by the lightpost in the green bags,” said the store manager, pointing outside. “You pay here, and then just go pick it up and load it in your car.”

I chuckled to myself. If that person only knew what kind of bargain was available across town…but she was already whipping out her credit card, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her.

7 Comments on “Compost on the cheap”

  1. #1 steven
    on Apr 29th, 2007 at 9:31 am

    My only problem with municipal compost is that I have no idea what’s in it. Since I try so hard to keep organic it doesn’t make sense to put other people’s herbicides and pesticides into my garden or even their *horrors*walnut leaves. I’m stuck making my own.Sigh.

  2. #2 inadvertentgardener
    on Apr 29th, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    That’s a good point, Steven — I had that thought as I was spreading it around and mixing it in, and then decided to let it slide. For one season, I’ll be alright. By next year, I’ll have my own.

  3. #3 Sally
    on Apr 30th, 2007 at 6:18 am

    Algona has this same program but for some reason West Bend does not. There is a place to dump yard waste at THE DUMP but it never gets a chance to compost as the city burns it once a year! Isn’t that strange?

  4. #4 inadvertentgardener
    on Apr 30th, 2007 at 7:01 am

    Sally, that’s totally strange. Makes no sense! You’d think it would be better for the environment for them to just compost. But maybe they don’t have the storage space for the finished compost?

  5. #5 Good compost makes good neighbors « The Inadvertent Gardener
    on May 3rd, 2007 at 8:32 am

    [...] Published May 3rd, 2007 Iowa City , Gettin’ Dirty When I was looking into the opportunities for free compost in the area, I found Iowa City’s helpful, handy dandy brochure on composting. It was clear, [...]

  6. #6 Gardening with Julie
    on Dec 3rd, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    I had no idea that you could get compost from the landfill. It is something to look into if you have limited space to work with or if you are an apartment dweller and only do container gardening.

  7. #7 inadvertentgardener
    on Dec 3rd, 2007 at 8:53 pm

    Julie, you’re absolutely right — it’s an excellent idea for container gardeners, or someone without space to compost.

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