How to save money on garden soil in Los Angeles

Growing in quality soil can be a financial barrier to people that want to start growing their own food. Apartment gardeners that want to try growing in a small space are forced into more garden soil than they need and then they are left with no place to store what is left. Many people, after finding a passion for gardening, discover that having a compost bin can be a great way to save money on revitalizing soil after each growing cycle. An unadvertised secret that can assist with these soil related problems is the City of Los Angeles. The city of LA, via the Sanitation Department, offers free pickup of compost and mulch. 

There are 10 locations for mulch and 2 locations for compost. For large needs, delivery is typically available (currently stopped because of Covid-19). If you are close enough, I would suggest using the Griffith park location as this is where the mulch and compost are processed and you don’t have to worry about coming on the wrong day of the week or risk a location running out.

If you type in the address of 5400 Griffith Park Drive as the navigation destination, GPS will take you to the incorrect location. Use the name “Griffith Park Composting Facility” in your navigation search and this should get you to the correct location. Make sure you bring a shovel or scooper of some kind, some gloves, and a container to transport your free compost or mulch. We have seen some creative solutions to moving the compost, with people packing up their small cars with trash bags, buckets, wheelbarrows, and even filled Ikea bags. You will want to make sure you can air out whatever you use, as the compost is fresh and does have a strong odor. The compost is made using animal manure from the herbivorous animals from the nearby Los Angeles Zoo. Some will poo poo the idea of using free compost if it is not heat treated first. The worry is that moving soil that is not treated, around the city can spread dangerous diseases and beetles like the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer and others. We have used the free compost for 3 years now and the only bug that has caused us any problems are the pill bugs which want to eat the decaying matter in the compost and will sometimes mistake your newly planted peppers as food. If this is a concern of yours, there are ways to solarize the soil, but it will take some time and it also kills all the positive microbes in the soil.

After everything reopens after the Covid-19 pandemic, the City of Los Angeles will also restart hosting a compositing and urban garden workshop the second Saturday of every month. This class teaches the basics of composting and has low cost options to purchase compost bins. We purchased one of these about 6 years ago at the start of our garden journey. These classes are held at several locations. They also offer courses on water savings and above ground container gardening. Free compost is a terrific service that is provided by the city that not enough people utilize it. Learning to make your own high-quality garden soil is a skill that will benefit any level of gardener and any size garden.

I would like to thank Galorian PLEASANTVIEWGARDEN for writing this post and providing this helpful knowledge to gardeners in the Los Angeles area. You can find his listing of fresh lemons from his tree right here.