Ideas for places to find lots of cheap burlap?

newbieroseloverNovember 20, 2004

Hi everyone,

I'm delighted to find this forum, so many good ideas! I need your advice. I'm creating huge sheet-composted beds to overwinter, probably 2500 to 3K square feet, and once I have them assembled, I need to cover them with a penetrable material to let in moisture. Burlap would be perfect. Any ideas where I could find a bunch of this for cheap or free? Or, suggestions of other material?



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joefalco(z8 MB SC)

Would thick cardboard work?

Its pretty easy to find for free.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 9:30AM
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drasaid(zone 8)

You can also use newsprint. Use newsprint and put something better looking on top (like brown paper or leaves.) The trick when using newspaper is to put it on in thin layers and hose them well, then put on more; you want EVERY SHEET to be wet.
Oysters come in burlap bags still; but you may not have oyster bars nearby!

    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 1:22PM
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I truly don't know if either material would do the trick. Would they let in enough moisture? Nice open weave burlap would for sure.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 6:06PM
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DrynDusty(z8 AZ)

The standard for this is chicken wire, but if you have too much weight, hardware cloth is very strong. Not especially cheap, sorry to say. Why are you needing such large amounts of compost?
I make huge piles of compost without frames of any kind, like 20 to 30 feet long by 4 feet high. Even in our gentle Arizona breezes, 60 to 70 mph, they all stick around. :) I turn them over with a rototiller, once or twice.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2004 at 5:27PM
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Hi Norm,
I'm doing the 'lasagna gardening' thing to create flowerbeds on top of clayey, rocky soil. It should be cooked enough by spring that I can dig down into it to plant bareroots and perennials. I was looking for the burlap to help moisture penetrate it, plus heat; it gets down to the teens and single digits here on top of our mountain during the winter, plus very strong winds. The highest windspeeds in the U.S. were clocked up here.

Also, I want to sheet-compost some very steep raw clay slopes, and I figure the burlap will help keep things in place.

I may resort to *many* black plastic trash bags with holes stuck in them. The neighbors will love me for that :-)

Thanks for your suggestions!

    Bookmark   December 3, 2004 at 11:44AM
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DrynDusty(z8 AZ)

Trying to grow things on a steep slope is, of course, an invitation to swift and sure erosion. If you find a way around it, let us know. I think the plastic bags will eventurally break down if exposed to UV, the plastic unexposed won't, anytime soon.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2004 at 6:35PM
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Yep, I'm watching erosion happen right now on the raw banks, which is why I'm going to plant shrubs and perennials on them this spring. Get some root systems in there to hold things together. Right now all they've got is some scattered weeds. The banks are such rocky clay, without topsoil, that I've got to amend them. Hence the sheet compost,and need for something like burlap to go on top. I'll cut holes and dig down through the compost in the spring to plant.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2004 at 8:42PM
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bluebloom(z8 PNW Canada)

If you're contemplating "many" black plastic bags as a possibility, maybe you could consider getting "many" (large clear, usually double) bags of coffee grinds from S'bucks & using them as part &/or instead.

Grocery stores & veggie markets here get onions in large bags of plastic mesh, which would let water & air permeate, but being red-orange in color may not look so great. I did use them once on a much smaller lasagna-type bed that wasn't in public view.

I wonder if a "Clearance" type fabric store would have cheap burlap rolls.

Good luck, whatever you decide.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2004 at 1:09AM
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Bluebloom, thanks for the suggestions. I've gotten grounds from Starbucks, but it's only occasional. We live in such a remote location I really have to multitask when I travel all the way into town. I also am resisting putting down plastic, since I'm afraid it won't let in much as much moisture. Discount fabric places are a good idea, I'll try that. I'm the type that saves the plastic netting from fruit and veggie bags, too, but since I need to cover 2500 to 3000 square feet, I need something in big quantity.

One Christmas I wrapped all our packages in wallpaper scraps and samples and I even created pompons and 'ribbons' for them from the netting, and plastic grocery bags. Looked wild and fun.

Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2004 at 9:23AM
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bluebloom(z8 PNW Canada)

That's creative wrapping!

Perhaps you could talk to the managers of a/some grocery or veggie stores to see if they would save you the larger sized plastic mesh bags when they are emptied to put the (eg. onions) loose in bins/shelves. I've gotten some "on the spot", and some were willing to save for me, but I ended up deciding not to get a lot more.

I've also heard that places that sell large ceramic or concrete type decor items sometimes receive them in burlap. I checked a large garden centre once & missed the "right" time of year, & other places didn't get theirs in burlap, but it may be worth asking if you're anyway in such a store. And an off chance... some coffee roasting places get their beans in large burlap bags & might give them away or sell them.

Another thought - Wooden pallets, placed here & there, & perhaps even alternating with & holding down whatever else you were able to acquire?? You might end up liking to use the planks as walking boards (unless it's too steep & slippery?) afterwards if you don't want to compress the lasagna bed too much... I've found them helpful as such & all over the lawn where needed to avoid slipping on our wet mucky lawn for this season (actually using old fencing planks). I guess disposal might be an issue after you're done, or acquisition & appearance in the first place.

Again, good luck.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2004 at 1:52PM
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drasaid(zone 8)

LOTS of old cotton socks. Fill each one with something biodegradable, or with sand, or coir or what ever. Then, when you have a mess of them-NAIL them to the ground you want to plant on. They will act as miniature terraces and catch soil when it rains; plants will root into them.
Where to get many, many old cotton socks? Ask. They breed in laundry rooms, only the husbandry they practice results in mismatched socks. People you know will deluge you with them. They will probably not be good earth colors, but time and dirt will take care of that.
Oh, and you could always just staple burlap on top.
What to nail with? I don't really know-something long. Perhaps cut up coathangers, bent into big staple shapes.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2004 at 8:00PM
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cantstopgardening(Zone 4/5 WI)

Feed mills used to ship grain in burlap bags. Perhaps some still do. Since you wouldn't mind getting old torn ones, you might get them free. Old cotton bedsheets, old tablecloths should also work, they could be dyed to help with the color situation. In fact, you might have seen that post on dyeing fabric in compost!

Glad to see you are getting your project going!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2004 at 12:22AM
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Such good ideas--thank you! Wow, dyeing fabric in compost? I didn't see that post, cantstop, but I'll look it up. I seem to dimly recall that urine could be used for that purpose.
Thanks all!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2004 at 3:20AM
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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

Sometimes old mattresses and inner-sprung bases have a layer of burlap/hessian as well as a coir padding. You probably wouldn't find enough of them to cover all your area but you might find enough for a special garden area.

On those steep slopes - is there any way you could cover them with slash/boughs, or sturdy, twiggy material pegged to break the flow? The last thing you want is sheet erosion or gullying, and slips usually descend on the one decent access track at the worst time of the winter.

IMHO it has to be big lengths of wood or whatever because the wind/rain will just strip off anything like sawdust or bark mulch and leave you with a heap at the bottom.

Sometimes material at the top of the slope can be used to break up the rate of downhill flow. Windrows of slash, or bracken, for example.

You might want to check with the permaculture site to see if anyone can give details on swales and bank protection for your particular area.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2004 at 5:11AM
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What about piles of pine straw?should be plentiful and free for you.Where in NC? I used to live in Maggie Valley.Many beautiful native plants do well there,they actually think Joe Pye Weed is a weed!!!Seriously,when I lived on a mountaintop(Sheepback Mountain),I was able to terrace off areas using lots of free rocks,they are everywhere,then build beds behind,using lots of natives with strong root systems.While the beds were bare,I would pile some brush on top to stop erosion until I got them planted and mulched with pine straw.Good luck,I know it will be beautiful when you finish,that NC clay can grow some fabulous plants,not like here in Louisiana!!

    Bookmark   December 10, 2004 at 7:54PM
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joannla, I'm outside Asheville. Maggie Valley is so pretty, too. I think I'm going to try combining several suggestions. I' m going to lay down several layers of organics on the slopes, top it all with burlap, then essentially 'quilt' it by hammering rows of pegs through the layers into the ground. Will peg down some evergreen boughs and tree limbs, too, and pile brush at the top, all good ideas. I also have dozens of bent wire U's that I used to support row cover when I was growing an organic veggie garden, so I'll use them to keep things in place too. When spring comes, I'll cut through the burlap to plant in what has hopefully turned to lovely compost/dirt!

    Bookmark   December 10, 2004 at 8:39PM
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freezengirl(3aMN and 5AK)

I bought nice 50 foot rolls of burlap at my local L&M Fleet (farm supply) store. I think they were around 3-4 dollars each. I know at my local fabric store you can buy burlap in real wide rolls. I have no idea of the cost but it is certainly available. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   December 10, 2004 at 11:31PM
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Monique_CA(z9 CA mothrlode)

Costcos that have an in-store coffee roaster have burlap bags for free...

    Bookmark   December 11, 2004 at 7:41PM
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Thanks everyone for all your suggestions. I broke down and actually bought 30 yards at a discount fabric stores, but will continue to keep eyes open for free supplies. Happy holidays! Janice

    Bookmark   December 13, 2004 at 8:06AM
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Is 8.95 per yard for burlap expensive? Instinct tells me it is...

Anyone know of a good place to call around for free or cheap burlap in Northern VA?

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 7:51PM
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here is an option that i have found works great. buy pickup loads of spoiled baled hay. sells for about fifty cents a bale. takes flakes about 3 inches to 4 inches thick and scatter them out in a checkerboard pattern. you can do a solid pattern, takes more hay. but it works wonders. the hay keeps the rain from impacting the soil (which is what causes the erosion). yet the rain goes through eventually, while the hay is decomposing and making soil. plus the hay sprouts new grass from the hay. if you have a really rocky but close to flat area, leave the bales tied up and lay them with the straw sticking up. place them in a solid pad, and plant directly into the bales. works great for potatoes. as the potatoes grow, the bales decompose into soil. good luck.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2010 at 12:12PM
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Snow fencing staked down with bent over rebar. Never leave rebar sticking up out of the ground, anybody falling on it could get speared through.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 1:56AM
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free burlap bags from coffee roaster

call ahead, set appt, pick up

they might even load for you

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 12:59AM
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If you have a seafood market any where close by, oysters are packaged and shipped in burlap sacks. They are usually thrown away after shipment. Just ask them to save for you. The smell disipates rather quickly once something is placed on top of them or in the sun.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 8:14PM
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