I’ve been on a mighty urban scavenge to acquire goodies for the garden this weekend. Although it would be wonderful to be able to source all my gardening goodness from on site, we started with a mostly grassed section, so it is impossible to generate enough biomass to supply the organic matter requirements of the garden. In an urban environment it is often necessary to venture into zones 6, 7 and 8 to procure nutrients and materials not readily available to hand. Two of my goals are to keep things as natural and as free as possible, so I went wombling in my neighborhood to accumulate materials for the garden.
As well as fueling up on a cup before I started, I picked up a couple of bags of spent coffee grains from a local cafe to fuel the garden. Most cafes will be more than happy to let you take these away. Used coffee can be good for the garden in small amounts. I tend to mix it with compost or put it straight under my blueberries, which prefer acidic soil. Spent coffee is also sterile, so it makes a good medium for growing mushrooms – a project I hope to look into soon.
I’ve known of a stash of chipped pohutakawa on public land that was left for the public several months ago. The pile started the size of a small house but has been whittled away by fellow gardeners since last summer. There was still more than enough to fill a trailer load yesterday and I reckon I will go back for more before it’s all gone.
Aged wood chip can be used as mulch on top of beds to help retain moisture and keep competitive plants at bay, although be careful here as I believe fresh woody material can actually deplete nitrogen from the soil. Our plan is to use a thick layer of wood chip as paths between the veggie beds, keeping the boundaries of the beds organic and move-able.
I never seem to have enough cardboard for sheet mulching the garden beds. Fortunately it is a major waste stream for supermarkets and they have to pay to have this collected and taken away so you are doing them a favour taking it off their hands.
I usually use to to sheet mulch after turning over weedy soil, and then add organic matter on top to plant in to. This time I needed cardboard to lay down over the grass between the veggie beds before I lay the wood chip path on top. I always take the time to remove plastic tape from the boxes before I use them, as this never rots down.
After loading up the trailer with wood chip, I took a drive round the coast on a seaweed mission. With the prolonged southerlies the last week, the South Coast beaches are covered. I go to an easy access beach that is outside the marine reserve to collect my nutrient-rich load. Lovely stuff. Now is the perfect time to pile it on the garden and have it break down in time for spring planting.
I keep a close watch across a number of local social media sites for things that might be useful in the garden. I recently picked up some unwanted pallets a few months ago that I will use to build a potting table. However, I tend to stick to local give-aways so it can be a bit hit or miss at times, but if you are willing to travel across town you can find all sorts of treasures.
The Cost of an Urban Scavenge
All of this was collected for the cost of the trailer hire, which came to $35. That and a bit of graft to shift the stuff. Well worth it. And I garnered great satisfaction from foraging for all these free materials. Admittedly, I did a bit of research up front and made sure I knew the materials were available and freely available before embarking on my urban scavenge. But I can now nourish my newly dug veggie bed and surround it with a beautiful path – for almost free!