Finding Free Compost in Your Area

Compost is like gold for gardeners and farmers. This “black gold” enriches soil with organic matter, improves drainage and water retention, and provides vital nutrients for plants. Good compost even helps suppress plant diseases and pests. The only downside is that compost can be expensive to buy at the store.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get this precious material for free if you know where to look. With a bit of effort, you can find a wealth of compost sources in your local community.

Check With Your City or Town

One of the easiest ways to find free compost is through your city or town’s waste management or recycling department. Many municipalities now offer composting programs that convert yard waste collected from residents into nutrient-rich compost. Some municipalities provide the finished compost back to residents for free or a minimal charge.

Contact your local waste management office to ask about municipal composting operations in your area. Explain that you are a resident interested in obtaining compost for your garden or landscape. Some key questions to ask:

  • Does the city or town make compost from yard waste that is picked up curbside or dropped off by residents?
  • If so, do they provide any of this finished compost to residents for free or for a pickup fee?
  • When and where is the free/low-cost compost available? Is it self-serve or do you need an appointment and help loading it?
  • Are there any restrictions on how much you can take or requirements to bring your own containers/bags?

Some towns may only offer free compost to residents who participate in the municipal collection program. Others will let anyone stop by and load up compost made at their facility. Taking advantage of municipal compost giveaways is an effortless way to score free compost.

Utilize Local Classifieds Sites

Another valuable source for finding free compost are community classifieds websites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. You’ll often find local gardeners, farmers, landscapers, and nurseries giving away compost or manure they don’t need.

I regularly check the “farm & garden” section on Craigslist for my area. There are almost always people offering free compost or manure by the bucket, yard, or truckload. Facebook Marketplace works similarly. Just search for “free compost”, “free manure”, or “free soil”.

The key is acting quickly if you see a good listing, as the free compost goes fast. Arrange a time to pick it up or have the person drop it off. You can find real gold mines this way – I once got probably 5 cubic yards of composted horse manure delivered for free off Craigslist!

Join Community Sharing Sites

Sites and apps designed specifically for neighborhood sharing, gifting, and bartering can also yield free compost. Two options to check out are Freecycle and Nextdoor.

With Freecycle, you join a local community group based on your location. People then post offers of free items they want to get rid of and requests for items they are seeking. Simply browse the “Offers” in the Garden category or make a “Wanted” post specifying you are looking for free compost or manure.

Nextdoor works similarly – it’s a hyperlocal social network for neighborhoods. Browse or post in the “Free” category of your Nextdoor feed. Neighbors, community gardens, and local businesses may offer free compost.

The benefit of these sites compared to Craigslist is that they facilitate sharing within a tight geographic radius. You’re more likely to find compost sources very close to home.

Talk to Local Farms & Stables

An excellent source for quality free compost is farms, stables, and other agricultural businesses in your area. Since they generate large volumes of organic waste and manure, they often have more compost than they need.

Develop a list of nearby farms, stables, equestrian centers, wineries, nurseries, or other agricultural operations. Call or visit and explain that you’re looking for compost and would be happy to haul away any extra they want to get rid of.

Offering to load the compost yourself with your truck, trailer, or containers makes it easy for them. You may even find some places will deliver free compost to you if they are hauling manure anyway.

Building relationships with local agricultural businesses can give you a regular supply of free compost for your garden.

Check With Community Gardens

Does your city or town have any community gardens? These are often urban farms and gardens run on public land by local volunteers and non-profit groups.

Community gardens need compost to enrich their soils just like home gardeners do. And because they grow so many plants in a concentrated area, community gardens generate a lot of organic waste. Much of this gets composted on-site.

Reach out to the groups that manage community gardens in your municipality. Let them know you’d be happy to take any extra compost they don’t need. You may be able to develop a regular pickup arrangement.

Some community gardens even have public compost bins where anyone can drop off waste to be composted. Then finished compost is available to anyone for free.

Search for Free Compost Events

Your city may offer special “free compost” events where residents can pick up compost made from yard waste. These are usually hosted a few times a year.

Search online for “[your city] free compost day” and similar terms to find upcoming events. For example, “Austin free compost” or “Miami free compost”. You may find info on the municipal website or local gardening sites.

At these events, residents can often load up compost for free on a self-serve basis. Some cities provide free compost deliveries to residents who request it.

Find out the dates, times, locations, and any requirements for these municipal compost giveaways. Then mark your calendar so you remember to get your share.

Locate Compost Hubs

Some counties and states operate “compost hub” programs through yard waste recycling centers. These facilities accept organic waste like leaves, grass clippings, and brush from residents. The material gets processed into rich finished compost.

Compost hubs then make the end product available back to the public, sometimes for free if you load it yourself. Search for “[your county] compost hub” to find facilities near you.

For example, finding “Orange County FL compost hub” led me to a site where I could take empty bins to fill with free compost. Some counties let you haul away compost in personal trucks and trailers too.

Utilizing municipal compost hubs is a win-win – you get free compost and the waste gets put to good use rather than dumped in a landfill.

Stop by Wood Chip/Debris Drop-Offs

Does your town or county have a location where residents can drop off brush, leaves, woodchips and tree debris for recycling? Oftentimes compost gets made from the organic material collected at these drop-off points.

Check municipal or county waste management websites for wood and yard debris drop-off or grinding operations near you. Contact them to find out if they give away any of the compost they produce on-site.

You may be able to load up bulk quantities of quality compost for free if you bring your own truck and shovel. This saves them the cost and labor of transporting and spreading it elsewhere.

Buy in Bulk and Split Loads

While not free, sometimes you can get compost cheaply by going in with friends on a bulk purchase.

For example, one local nursery near me sells a truckload of compost delivered for $200. If I split it with a few gardening buddies, we each get a cubic yard of compost for $50-60 bucks. That’s much cheaper than buying bags at retail.

Check with landscape supply stores, nurseries, or landscapers to find out their delivered bulk compost rates. Then recruit a few friends to invest in a load and split it up. It’s an affordable way to get large volumes of compost.

Start Your Own Compost Pile

Of course, the easiest way to get free compost is to make it yourself! Composting your own organic waste into “black gold” for your garden is extremely rewarding.

You can compost in simple holders or bins made from wood, wire, or plastic. Some people even just make free piles. Collect kitchen scraps, yard waste, manure, and other compostable items and let nature do its work.

Home composting saves money, closes the organic waste loop, and gives you the freshest, richest compost for your soil.

When first starting out, getting some free compost from other sources can help “seed” your pile with beneficial microbes. But before long, you’ll be producing more lovely compost than you need. Which you can then give away for free yourself on Craigslist and Nextdoor!

Get Compost Hunting!

Hopefully this article has illuminated the many creative ways you can find free “black gold” in your area. With a little effort and planning, you can get all the compost you need at no cost.

Remember to call your city, watch for municipal giveaways, leverage neighborhood apps, connect with local farms and gardens, and consider making your own.

Happy compost hunting! May your bins and piles runneth over with the sweet smell of free organic matter. Your garden will be thriving in no time. Let us know in the comments if you have any other great tips for scoring free compost!