Need local (PGH) source for good/free compost

pghgardnewbie(6)June 6, 2006

Hi Everyone!

I am a newbie gardener that is just starting out with an existing garden. I am starting from scratch in many places, so I need to get a good growing foundation in place.

I was smart enough to save a few bags from my raking in the fall, and started composting it in a container, which is working well. It won't be ready for awhile, though, and isn't enough to cover all my beds. So I am looking for a cheap (as in, very cheap) compost source to supplement.

I actually found this site while looking for compost sources, and found an older message that had info for possible free compost (recycled from municipal/residential pick ups, etc), but none of the links panned out. I had to typically spend several minutes explaining myself to a bored office worker who has no idea what I am talking about (and cares even less), and the answer was always "no". The gal from Monroeville laughed at me, thank you very much!

So I am in need of advice from you seasoned pros. Can anyone recommend a place that sells good compost, or, better yet, definitely gives it away? I live in Aspinwall, which is just across the river from Highland Park (and the zoo). We have a super small lot, and my raised beds butt against the sidewalk, so anything pungent (i.e. manure), is out of the question (not to mention my nutty neighbor, who rakes my leaves and cuts my grass when I don't do it "right", would have a cow).

I don't have a lot of money to spend for really good stuff (and none to overpay!), but am willing to invest some bucks to get the soil in a good spot for next year. If you can recommend a good compost, and a local place to buy it, I will check it out, too.

I appreciate you checking out my post...


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I'm suprised none of the municipalities were able to help you. I live across the river from you in Penn Hills, and I know I've seen listings where you can get the municipal mulch. Maybe you could check with a local landscaping company and see if they would want to get rid of their clippings by giving them to you? You might also want to check with the local environmental organizations (like the PA Resource Council) to see if they could direct you anywhere. I'm sure there's free mulch to be had.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2006 at 3:13PM
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wolfe15136(z6 PA)

Well, here in Dormont, the municipality makes it available for the taking from time to time.

I drive by every day, and there hasn't been anything available yet this season.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2006 at 3:07PM
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Karigraphy(z5 wpa)

Hello - I'm a short stone's throw from you. Although I've never checked it out myself, I've heard that the city of Pittsburgh has composted leaves/etc. that are available. Someone else told me that I shouldn't use it because you don't know what is in it.

Usually I use bags of cow manure or mushroom manure from Busy Beaver for small areas. Otherwise, I've gotten a one yard delivery of mushroom manure from a local supplier for about $25 plus delivery. The mushroom manure smelled faintly when it was delivered but the smell goes away quickly. The bags of manure are decomposed and don't smell. If you are doing a front yard garden, the bags would be very easy and convenient to use - you could even use a combination of cow, mushroom, peat moss, and top soil in bags.

What kind of garden are you working on? Is it sunny or shade? Perennials?


    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 12:21PM
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Hi Karen,

I have two sort of raised beds in front, one has several young azaleas and one rhodie, the other has ornamental grasses (just planted), lavender and day lilies. I have contacted several nursuries to get prices, and I was going to get mushroom compost, but I have learned that it isn't good for acid loving plants like my azaleas.

Since I don't have much money to spend, I was hoping to save some money- but I agree about the municipal compost. Others have emailed me to warn of possible lawn chemicals or pesticides, so I am less enthused now!

If you can forward a recommendation, that would be great!


    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 6:45PM
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Starbucks gives away coffee grounds. You can add them to what you have to bulk up a bit. They are green so it will help break down your compost faster.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2006 at 10:28PM
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Karigraphy(z5 wpa)

Hi Newbie - I've used mushroom manure all over the place without any problems, but then again, I usually add a ferterlizer for rhodies/holy/azelea.

Low battery . . . more later.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2006 at 7:31PM
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Karigraphy(z5 wpa)

Back . . . I'm not sure where else to get compost other than making your own which takes time and won't help you this year. My shrubs do well with little care other than a little ferterlizer and some mulch.

Are you hoping to plant more perennials? I am having much better luck with my perennials now that I added mushroom manure to loosen up the soil.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 12:19PM
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Thanks, all! I had already boosted my compost with the grounds (there is a Starbucks nearby), so I was ahead of the game. ;-)

Busy Beaver has a reasonably priced bag of mushroom compost, so I got a half dozen and managed to spread it between rain storms. I know it should help my perennial bed, especially the sunflowers. The other bed is "naked" for the moment (with the Rhodes and Azaleas), but I will see what I can find on sale next month. I am also going to follow up with some of the tree guys that I see around the area-maybe I can score some wood chips....

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2006 at 10:24PM
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You can get it cheaper if you have it delivered by the yard. And even cheaper than that if you go pick it up yourself. If you have a SUV, you could lay a tarp down in the back--or ask to borrow a neighbor's pick up truck. Buying in bulk is always cheaper by than buying bags. You can find the places along the highways. They always have huge mounds of mulch and rocks stacked up. There's two on Route 8 wihin a 1/4 mile of each between the intersections of Butler Plank Road and Elfinwild Road, both on are lights on Route 8. There are probably ones nearer to you but that's an example of where to get it in bulk.

Here is a link that might be useful: shaler street map

    Bookmark   July 3, 2006 at 11:05PM
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dian2(z6 pgh pa)

I get wood chips from our cemetary. They let the chippers dump there and you just go and shovel it yourself. Bit of work but hey, free is free. So far we have gotten about 13 full size pick up trucks full. we are loading up for next year but have not gotten any recently due to heat and other life thing that come up.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2006 at 8:07AM
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