Free Compost For Chicago-area Gardeners
Did you know that the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) is giving away high-quality compost? Maybe you did, but I sure didn’t. The compost is made from wood chips, leaves, grass clippings, and biosolids derived from water reclamation.
In case that sounds icky to you, have no fear. These organic materials are composted at a temperature high enough to kill all pathogens. Compost from MWRD has been used for over 20 years at parks, schools, golf courses, and athletic fields.
The District will even deliver compost to you – if you order 10 cubic yards or more. That’s a heck of a lot of compost for a home garden, so instead I’ll be driving to the nearest water treatment facility with buckets and a shovel stowed in my trunk. Gardeners can take away as many containers full of compost as they care to fill.
Fortunately, the closest facility for me is less than 2 miles away, but there are 6 other locations throughout Cook County. For more information, follow this link.
I do make my own compost, but it’s never enough, and so I always end up buying bagged compost from some garden center. This makes me feel bad as the bags contribute to the plastic waste problem, plus they can be somewhat expensive.
Evanston, the suburb adjoining Chicago where I live, used to make its own compost at a nearby park. You could take buckets of the stuff away with you for free. However, the operation shut down after complaints about the smell – an entirely imaginary smell, in my opinion. So the MWRD is making up for my own town’s foolish decision. I only wish I had known years ago.
You’re probably aware of this, but just in case, I should point out that compost makes an excellent mulch and soil amendment. It improves the soil structure and adds organic matter.
Giving away compost makes loads of sense. Gardeners get an affordable and environmentally-friendly soil amendment, and MWRD (along with local governments) gets help with waste disposal.
I might need to buy some more buckets, though.
Wow, I didn’t know about this! I’ll have to check it out.
Are you in Cook County? In the western suburbs? There’s a facility in Cicero.
I have seen the facility off of Harlem just north of I-55 but was unaware of the program, although it’s logical, otherwise why would they be doing it…? It’s a great improvement over the smell of sewage I endured for years while birding the Portage, which borders the MWRD property. I have my own mammoth compost pile that has to be reconfigured but I’m waiting for cooler weather.
Do you have problems with smells?
Not really. It seems to take care of itself, more or less.
Brown gold. That’s what I’ve always called it!
Good name for it.
Wow, a great idea. I haven’t heard of anything like that here, but will be asking around now!
I always thought Europe was more environmentally conscious than the US.
In some ways, but gardening still hasn’t taken off so there are few such projects for private gardeners.
The DuPage Sanitary District here in DuPage County also has a biosolids program that is great for lawns and landscape beds. They do not recommend the use of this material on vegetable gardens. Their program does not include leaves, grass or wood chips.
MWRD says you can use their compost on agricultural land, but must be applied “in a manner that follows recommended application rates.”
Free high quality compost — what a gift!
A neighboring town gives away free compost, but ours sure doesn’t. I’m thinking you need to consider buying a meal for someone with a truck you can borrow. 🙂
I was thinking I needed to buy a clean tarp and some buckets for the trunk of our car (it’s a decent size).
I am jealous. I wish I could get some compost for my garden. Lucky you.
Maybe there’s a nearby town that does the same.
Lucky you! You can top dress all your beds this fall, then you’ll have lotsa happy plants next spring. What a great program!
Exactly! Plus I can spread compost on my bits of lawn, which can get expensive when you buy by the bag.
Wonderful! Our town does a similar thing, but it doesn’t deliver. I’m impressed by this service.
Hello Jason, I wish we had this, and with amounts of bulk bags of manure and compost I have to order for the garden, I’d love to have the free delivery for it too!
Do you think you could use 10 cubic yards? That’s the minimum for delivery.
Is this compost safe to use in a vegetable garden?
The website doesn’t say specifically, but it does say you can use it on agricultural land if applied at recommended amounts.
What a fantastic initiative! I am positively green-eyed!xxx
I’m quite pleased about it.
Dang! The only thing we get for free is coarsely chipped scrap lumber, complete with paint, tar and metallic bits that were missed in the sorting.
We can still get wood chips from trees the city has cut down – but it’s VERY coarse, though there is no paint or metallic bits, etc.
Are the chips free?! We can get them too, but must pay for them unless we happen to know of private tree crew who needs to dump them.
Yes, they are free, but you must transport them yourself.
Well, I suppose for those of us who want only a pickup full, that would not be a problem. When tree work is done here, most of the chips get blasted out into the forest. Much of what is getting cut now is bay, and no one wants that! However, oak chips get dumped in a pile here for us to use in the landscapes. Neighbors sometimes take what they want. That is partly why I disliked the shredded scrap lumber. Sure it was free, but so are our own chips. I was not convinced that it looked any more presentable than chipped oak or redwood.
That’s great. I’d find room for 10 yards if it were free! My trash company makes compost and potting soil (I honestly can’t tell the difference, even from reading the ingredients), bags it up and sells it for about $5 a bag. It went up this year. It has the organic labeling, but I don’t know how they can be when it’s made from the waste in our green bins. I know not ALL of my waste is organic, so the end product can’t be organic. I make my own, at least it’s made, I just haven’t dug it out in years! It will be nice stuff.
Much better than just letting it go to waste.