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what's your best ideas for filling beds for free?

 
Posts: 397
Location: On the plateau in crab orchard, TN
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Currently it's red clover growing in beds, plus weeds, and a lot of cut grass from lawn.
 
pollinator
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Sounds like a good start!  I would chop and drop before winter, then bury the whole think in shredded leaves.  Great start for next spring!

Add manure if you have some.
 
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I know several people who have horses. They clean the stalls regularly and they can’t give it away fast enough. It’s a mixture of straw saw dust and of course horse manure. They only bad thing is if they feed the horses oat in their stalls, then oats will sprout. If you know anyone with horses it’s a good way to fil your bed quickly and free.
 
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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Thomas Black wrote:I know several people who have horses. They clean the stalls regularly and they can’t give it away fast enough. It’s a mixture of straw saw dust and of course horse manure. They only bad thing is if they feed the horses oat in their stalls, then oats will sprout. If you know anyone with horses it’s a good way to fil your bed quickly and free.



Good post.  A craigslist search for manure will usually get a few hits for locals offering free horse 'compost' for free.
 
Michael Moreken
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we are doing quite well with cut lawn grass, and input from my trash can 'composting'?
 
pollinator
Posts: 220
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Alas, there are plenty of horses here but they're all pumped full of drugs and such for the racing industry so I've avoided horse manure. Additionally, I've avoided anything directly with or processed straw/hay largely due to the commonality and persistence of aminopyralid &/or clopyralid residues...even that which passes through animals.

I do bring in ridiculous amounts of leaves in the fall. This forms the backbone of composting efforts, protective winter mulch, and bedding for worms.

I used to get a LOT of coffee from nearby Starbucks but that dried up when the local university formed a composting effort. I am still searching for a replacement. I just got a tip on a source of spent beer brew grains. Will know more soon.

BTW, I learned something yesterday. Called a local smoothie place to see if I might ask about the spent vegetable/fruit pulp. There isn't any. They are all powders and liquids. I must have a mistaken impression about what is in a smoothie!
 
pollinator
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I used dirt from my yard mixed with some horse manure and whatever else was around (wood chips, biochar, leaves, fish heads, etc...). It's only been mounded for a single season. It's a work in progress.

The manure was sweet. We have a website to help local ranchers unload their extra animal poo in my county. The guy I got mine from is one of those fabled horse whisperer guys and he raises just a few "extra special" horses (sorry I don't know what to call them) at a time. Basically he just fleeces rich people, he's a hillarious dude. Anyway, he uses no drugs. "All shit, no bull", was how he described his product. Plus he loaded my pickup with a tractor so minimal effort.

EDIT: I forgot to add: I paid 30 bucks for some compost worms and they are really pumping it out lately. Built a bin for free from scrap and I fill it with leaves and shredded office paper. And of course veggie scraps and coffee grounds. Not free but VERY economical.
 
pollinator
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Rabbits and wadded paper bedding.

I have a pet Flemish Giant, and we've turned our outdoor, city-provided black composter into a thriving worm bin because her contributions are composted with the raw paper bedding we use. Between that and the coffee grounds I add every day, the red wigglers love it. If they didn't somehow know that I was the Provider of Food, I would be afraid of going too near that writhing, steaming black bin.

Anyways, I emptied the composter in preparation for our first whole winter with her. It was full by Christmas. I then started dumping her contributions and our kitchen scraps under the snow ontop of the frozen raised bed I use. I got a container of red wigglers as soon as I could sink a fork into both composter and raised bed (at the end of a particularly frigid February, about a month earlier than I had thought to even check, except on one excursion to empty the litter, I saw the composter billowing steam so hard I thought it had been set ablaze) and divided one container of about 250 worms between the two.

A month later, except for a semi-frozen crust atop the bed, there was no trace of the paper, and the composter had reduced in volume by a quarter. I did not need to buy soil that year.

I don't know exactly how to put this into practice, but I might have to soon. My ideas involve a large outdoor kon-tiki charcoal pyrolyser and as much arborist-donated woodchip as I can get. I would get around the problem of invasives by turning the whole lot, potential trees-of-heaven, any salixes, and anything carrying anything that I don't want, into activated charcoal. It all burns, and I could have parties, maybe work-themed, maybe not, where perhaps people make great use of new barrel and woodchip outhouse systems. These might also be fitted for pyrolysis, which would be a great use of the heat of the kon-tiki.

Then collect any biomass available and fix your carbon to nitrogen ratio. I have seen it done with grocery store food waste in windrows.

In any case, be careful what you get for free. Let us know how it goes, and good luck.

-CK
 
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i fill my raised beds halfway with old branches then fill in between with coffee grounds /chic manure. i then fill in the rest with potting soil and mulch with 3in. of wood chips. i then make rows in the wood chips and plant in the soil. wood chips help keep the moisture in. in fall i till it all in with some blood and bonemeal. next spring its ready to plant again.
 
pollinator
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I fill my raised beds which are actually wicking beds (as it holds water until 3/4 full) with 1/2 way with logs and sticks, then 1/4 way with what ever manure infested bedding i have on hand ( ive done horse, pig, and chicken and no not composted or aged) then the top 1/4 is just the native soil from beneath the bed.

I have some 2 years old now and I will not change a thing when I make more.
 
gardener
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Dan Fish wrote:

"All shit, no bull"



Oh, that is so cool. I’m so gonna steal that, ha ha.
 
master gardener
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Although I have not done this lately, now is the time to chase down all those Halloween displays...  you know...the ones with the pumpkins on the bales of straw.  This is especially true if they have been outdoors getting rained on.  One year I got 3 pickup truck  loads of straw bales.  Warning ...wet straw can be heavy.  Anyway, I set them in raised beds so that, when they did fall apart, they would be contained. There is a lot of time between now and spring for the rain  and snow to help them decompose.
 
echo minarosa
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I may have landed a long-term replacement for coffee grounds that I can no longer get nearby in any quantity. I spoke to a local brew pub owner. She allowed me to come get spent grains. The grains are cracked and steeped in hot water. Liquid then removed and grains rinsed to get all the sugars possible. The remainder is what she dumps. Mainly barley though could have wheat or oats depending on the brew. No hops (too early in stage). I arrived to shovel from the grain bin and nothing in there was more than 48 hrs old. After removing the first few inches it was already steaming. The small particle size and the sugars start decomp readily. I took home a few hundred pounds. I put them on the layered trench, in all compost areas, and the remainder went directly into a bed. Mourning doves were keenly interested in that bed. I covered over all of the composting areas, layered trench, etc and I'm awaiting leaves to start the next grain layer. If left to sit, open piles of grain can have an off smell...think broccoli in a microwave. :) But covered, it is really workable. I am still on the front end but it looks promising. This might also be double gold if I had chickens.
 
Michael Moreken
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I am letting grass sit there maybe sinking a bit, chasing out fire ants too.  I find earthworms in yard weeding and carry them over to garden bed, lift grass, drop the worm and put grass back on worm.

Any red wigglers I find I mostly carry into house to my 'worm bin' They definitely have a lot of food to eat, coffee, bread, banana peels, apple cores, egg shells broken up, etc.

In winter now, busy clearing 8 foot weeds that dried out.  I am working in my small woods out back clearing it slowly over winter piling seeds, stalks, dug up multi-flora roses, then silly end goal is to make it mow able (more grass?  In the summer no way, my mower would stall continually.  But winter has arrived so going to work pulling up hundreds of weeds.  Creating 4 piles.  Maybe I make two hugle beds out of two of the piles that are in a low area of yard with  H2O.  Not even sure what I am pulling up, and working with a maddox for the multi-flora rose and certain other weeds.  I am tempted to burn third pile (once I clear out all dry material around it?  I have un-burned or slightly burned black walnut logs for 3rd pile.  Throwing thin stuff on lawn to dry out and die.  So have 2 burn, 2 bury...

Found another wild asparagus plant fooling around in back woods!

Might be tempted to do Eden model with wood chips in bed in spring, at this point I have wood chips between the beds, early in season mushrooms growing on them.  Maybe call to get more free wood chips in next week.  Dog not mine, but neighbor's that craps on the lawn.

Photo 1 bury
Photo 2 burn
Photo 3 bury
Photo 4 burn walnut logs
Photo 5 burn walnut logs
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Posts: 75
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echo minarosa wrote:I may have landed a long-term replacement for coffee grounds that I can no longer get nearby in any quantity. I spoke to a local brew pub owner. She allowed me to come get spent grains. The grains are cracked and steeped in hot water. Liquid then removed and grains rinsed to get all the sugars possible. The remainder is what she dumps. Mainly barley though could have wheat or oats depending on the brew. No hops (too early in stage). I arrived to shovel from the grain bin and nothing in there was more than 48 hrs old. After removing the first few inches it was already steaming. The small particle size and the sugars start decomp readily. I took home a few hundred pounds. I put them on the layered trench, in all compost areas, and the remainder went directly into a bed. Mourning doves were keenly interested in that bed. I covered over all of the composting areas, layered trench, etc and I'm awaiting leaves to start the next grain layer. If left to sit, open piles of grain can have an off smell...think broccoli in a microwave. :) But covered, it is really workable. I am still on the front end but it looks promising. This might also be double gold if I had chickens.



Lots of breweries sell that stuff for animal feed.  If you have goats or cows, they seem to be OK with it as a supplement to their normal winter diet.  Since I home brew, I can tell you a bit about it.  You will definitely want to get some poo in there to speed up the decomposition as nitrogen is required by the bacteria that break down the husks.  I used to get my husband to just go pee on the compost heap to help it along,  Once its going pretty good, it will get hot so  watch your heap so you know when to turn it and when to water it as it will lose a lot of moisture from steaming.  If you have anything that you want to cook in your compost heap (e.g. clippings from a weedy part of the yard), throw them into the middle of the heap.  
 
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check out chip drop (app). you can get yards of wood chips for free.
 
Michael Moreken
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brew pub owner. She allowed me to come get spent grains. The grains are cracked and steeped in hot water.



I am a home brewer since 2018, thank you Lord for all the batches coming good.  Just picked up a sack of grain 25 kg (55#) from Germany un-cracked, plus 2 1# lbs of specialty grains (also un-cracked, bringing my total of specialty grains to 4#) for flavoring.

So hope to get started on a brew fairly soon.  With this 55# sack I can make ~11 cases of beer about 5% ABV or higher.  Plenty of times we start with 10#, plus 1# of special grain for a ~>5.2% beer.

Need to throw in hops (a bittering agent, to offset the sugar), too since no one wants a super sweet drink.  For now I have just been tossing spent grains in low areas of yard.

Maybe I can go to Starbucks in store (about 12 miles away) and talk, see I can start showing up with a bucket.
 
Michael Moreken
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My spent grains just disappear on their own literally.

Everybody have a Happy Thanksgiving!
 
echo minarosa
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Lisa Sampson wrote:

Lots of breweries sell that stuff for animal feed.  If you have goats or cows, they seem to be OK with it as a supplement to their normal winter diet.  Since I home brew, I can tell you a bit about it.  You will definitely want to get some poo in there to speed up the decomposition as nitrogen is required by the bacteria that break down the husks.  I used to get my husband to just go pee on the compost heap to help it along,  Once its going pretty good, it will get hot so  watch your heap so you know when to turn it and when to water it as it will lose a lot of moisture from steaming.  If you have anything that you want to cook in your compost heap (e.g. clippings from a weedy part of the yard), throw them into the middle of the heap.  



Will it need all the extra nitrogen if the grain is cracked? This stuff starts warming in about 24 hours...really quick to cook. It looks like several of the micro brews here give the stuff away. The big bourbon distillers seem to have more commercial pathways for their spent mash as the quantities are much larger. But, I didn't want corn as an input so I skipped trying those sources.
 
Michael Moreken
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Recent photos of burns and weeds

Got a big pile of wood 'chips' and working on putting on paths between raised beds.  Then hope to mulch carefully about 3 inches thick, and 5 foot diameter around new/young half dozen trees, keeping mulch away from bark about 6 inches  of trees.

Then maybe entertaining back to Eden if I want to try load most of my winter beds down with wood chips.  (I found three foot twigs, and pieces of wood a 0.5 inch thick with this free mulch, I tend to put this on burn pile, or maybe another hugel bed out back?
20201210_burn-pile.jpg
the 1126 -1557 file above
the 1126 -1557 file above
20201210_thick-weeds.jpg
thick as ever working on manually clearing (ha ha bush hog)
thick as ever working on manually clearing (ha ha bush hog)
20201210_walnut-logs.jpg
after burn of 1126-1600 above my current burn pile 3 times
after burn of 1126-1600 above my current burn pile 3 times
 
Michael Moreken
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echo minarosa wrote:

Lisa Sampson wrote:

Lots of breweries sell that stuff for animal feed.  If you have goats or cows, they seem to be OK with it as a supplement to their normal winter diet.  Since I home brew, I can tell you a bit about it.  You will definitely want to get some poo in there to speed up the decomposition as nitrogen is required by the bacteria that break down the husks.  I used to get my husband to just go pee on the compost heap to help it along,  Once its going pretty good, it will get hot so  watch your heap so you know when to turn it and when to water it as it will lose a lot of moisture from steaming.  If you have anything that you want to cook in your compost heap (e.g. clippings from a weedy part of the yard), throw them into the middle of the heap.  



Will it need all the extra nitrogen if the grain is cracked? This stuff starts warming in about 24 hours...really quick to cook. It looks like several of the micro brews here give the stuff away. The big bourbon distillers seem to have more commercial pathways for their spent mash as the quantities are much larger. But, I didn't want corn as an input so I skipped trying those sources.



The moonshiners around here apparently get 10 50 lb sacks of barley for production.
 
pioneer
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I'm using 2 options currently.

1. every time I build a raised bed, I also dig a pond. Fill bed Hugel construction style, with tree branches and chop and drop, leaf sweepings, a bit of microbial rich compost inoculant, soil from new pond. Plant up with legumes or deacon radish that will basically grow in nothing. fill up with mulch/ chop and drop and pond soil over time as beds sink (organic matter reduces)

2. green waste donations from neighbours. Probably not chemical free, but then again I'm probably also getting airborne drift in an urban context.
 
pollinator
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So I'm going to chime in based on a few things I did last year and the issues I had.  

First we basically stayed home for the first six-eight weeks of the pandemic except for a trip or two to the small grocery store nearby.  I had a bit of bagged top soil and some compost left from the previous year and purchasing soil wasn't an option since I wasn't risking the trip to town and at that time I wasn't sure how the decrease in income would affect us.  I do however have ten wooded acres and access to well-rotted timber so I took advantage of that and sifted it so that I was adding the smaller chunks to the beds and the larger ones to the compost pile.  I then made a colossal mistake by putting the sifted rotted wood on the bottom of the bed in hugel fashion, thinking I would eliminate the nitrogen leaching issue.  I then covered this layer with the leftover soil I had left, a layer of comfrey leaves and mulch.  In the three beds I did this in I had issues with nitrogen deficiency despite adding a good portion of blood meal to each when constructing the beds.  I was constantly adding diluted urine and comfrey tea to the beds weekly and did get some okay harvests from them.  The potatoes in one bed actually did great!  Another issue I noticed was that these beds seemed to dry out more than the others though they were heavily mulched.  Last fall all three beds were given a few inches of compost and hoping for better results.  If I utilize the well-rotted wood again, I'll either compost it a bit more or build the bed a season ahead and perhaps grow a nitrogen fixating cover crop on it.

My second free resource was a mix of river sand and decomposing leaves.  At one point a road passes through the local river and every few years the state comes through and removes the sand and rock that builds up and restricts the flow of the water.  On one of our outings we went to the river to introduce our daughter to the wildflowers that grow along it and noticed the sand bar was unusually high and the top layer was a combination of sand and leaf residue deposited from flooding.  We spoke with one of the state workers who was working on the road that day and discovered that the sandbar was scheduled to be removed later in the month and received permission to harvest it. I also checked with DNR who had no issues with it as long as we stayed within the area slated for removal.  So we went home and gathered just about every bucket and large container we could find and went back.  It was unusually light and I'm guessing that it was approximately 25% sand.  After sifting out the large sticks and debris I was left with a really nice mix that I incorporated into three more beds.  I had absolutely no issues with these beds other than they required a bit more water than the established beds.  In fact, I planted my sweet potatoes late and honestly didn't expect much of a harvest, but was pleasantly surprised at the size and yield.  I did add some comfrey tea to the bed soon after it was planted and to the sweet potato bed only, I added a layer of chestnut blooms for mulch.  If I would have access to the river sand/leaf mix again, I would definitely do it again!

Another thing I did different was to add my vegetable waste and coffee grounds to the top of some of my large planters and cover it with a layer of finely shredded wood chips.  I did this until the layers were so high it just wasn't feasible to add anything else to it. I planted tomatoes in these containers and they did remarkably well when compared to prior years.  Plus I wasn't adding new soil to the containers, but simply amending what was already there at no cost but my time.

I currently have a partially decomposed pile of chestnut burrs I'm composting for use this fall and have started on a lasagna-style bed.  Again all for free except for the time involved.  I've also been collecting cardboard boxes to use in my paths and under new beds.  Don't be afraid to experiment.  Some may work and some may not, but the experience you gain is invaluable!
 
echo minarosa
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SCORE! A local bakery deal has me getting all their eggshells. That won't bulk up a bed considerably but will add to the makeup. Not even sure the numbers yet but I know when they rack off one thing it takes 15 dozen eggs. I am still looking for coffee. The search continues...
 
pollinator
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echo minarosa wrote:SCORE! A local bakery deal has me getting all their eggshells. That won't bulk up a bed considerably but will add to the makeup. Not even sure the numbers yet but I know when they rack off one thing it takes 15 dozen eggs. I am still looking for coffee. The search continues...



Starbucks usually (in western Washington, at least) packages up their spent grounds into empty 10-lb? coffee bean bags and puts them in a basket near the counter.  You don't even need to talk to anyone to take them. :)  But it's luck whether there will be any there, and you have to dispose of the plastic bags.

A smaller chain might be willing to hold all their grounds for you, more likely if you give them a container to dump into, and commit to a weekly pickup schedule.
 
echo minarosa
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I had two Starbucks from which I was getting loads of coffee. One went with a large organizational composting effort and the other had a staff change. I had tubs down there for three months and in that time a single filter with coffee was left. I asked once a month of they still wanted to do it and they assured me they did. The new staff couldn't be bothered by it so after three months of inquiry, I removed my tub. Many of the other Starbucks said they do not save them at all and didn't want to start. After that, it's too far out of my range and I don't want to make special trips. I tried all of the local coffee houses, coffee roasters, etc and none were interested or already had someone picking up in 2 cases. I got a tip on another small roaster today. Fingers crossed.

BTW, in the last year or so a local subscription compost operation formed. I suspect that also compounds my sourcing issues but really don't know.
 
Michael Moreken
Posts: 397
Location: On the plateau in crab orchard, TN
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The nice Twp where lived went to clear back property fence with trees/bushes growing in it, so they ripped out metal fence, uprooted a number of trees for free in the back of property.  Wonder if I need to buy a chain saw, to cut up firewood for heating.  The farmer out back has a number of axes (me too) and chain saws.
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Story like this gets better after being told a few times. Or maybe it's just a tiny ad:
Learn Permaculture through a little hard work
https://wheaton-labs.com/bootcamp
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