You don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune on compost to get your veg patch on the go or to imrpove your soil quality. There are some sources of free (or very cheap) organic matter that are easy to get hold of, depending on where you live.
- Horse/Cow Manure
These are probably the easiest to get hold of if you live anywhere remotely rural. You may see it on the side of the road in bags, or you can get friendly with a local stable yard or farmer.
Things to watch out for: make sure it is well rotted before you add it to your veg patch (or add it several months ahead of planting). Also, be vigilant as to what is in it. Our Rocket Gardener once laid down horse manure only to discover loads of bits of equestrian rubber in the soil once it started to rot down.
If you live near the coast, then a bucketful or two of seaweed from the shoreline can do wonders for your veg patch. You can add it to the compost pile,or we have heard of gardeners using it as a mulch and adding it to the surface of soil. You don’t need to rinse it off first, BUT we would advise doing this anyway just to free it of salt and any nasties.
Things to watch out for: bear in mind that often there will be run off from local farms etc, which may mean some pesticides are present in the seaweed. Also, try not to take too much from any one spot.
Woodsmen and tree surgeons are often very happy to get rid of their woodchip and can easily give you a dumpy bag or two of the stuff. Leave it in a pile to rot for 18 months to 2 years before you use it. By the end of this time it should be quite a nice crumbly compost.
Things to watch out for: Don’t add it until it has really broken down to compost consistency. Also, be aware that it makes a lovely habitat for slugs etc while it is breaking down, so don’t have it too close to your crops.
You may be surprised to find that some local waste centres produce their own compost. It’s definitely worth looking into as some give away the compost, or sell it at ridiculously cheap prices.
Things to watch out for: This is not compost made by gardeners, so it may not be completely organic or very balanced. Ask them about the process and decide how you feel about it.