Keeping the weeds down -- for free

Mulch (lg).jpg

How does your garden grow? With free mulch and compost.

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

Sometimes being a good shopper is knowing what you can actually get for free.

So, here's a deal for the savvy gardener -- free mulch. Well, it's only free to Albany residents. For everyone else, it's still a pretty good deal.

Mulch (sm).jpgThe mulch is from Albany's Department of General Services. It's not fancy (what you see is what you get, no black or red mulch) -- it's chipped from wood that's been collected throughout the city, including old Christmas trees. To my average consumer's eye it looks comparable to the stuff my better half picks up at the big home and gardening stores.

This is totally a do-it yourself operation. You drive right to the dead end of Erie Blvd. and help yourself to the pile. You can take up to 5 five-gallon buckets at a time (depending on availability). You do need to bring your own buckets and shovel -- you can't just drive up with a tarp in the trunk or something.

The hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 - noon and 12:30-2:30.

If you don't live in the city of Albany, you can buy mulch for $10/cubic yard at the DGS' main office, just down the street (more information).

There's also free compost available (from collected brush, leaves, and grass clippings) but from what I saw, unless you get there when there's a fresh pile, you'll have to sift through some debris to get the good stuff. The conditions for compost are the same as for mulch, a limit of 5 five-gallon buckets at a time with your bucket and shovel.

Find It

The City of Albany’s Compost Facility- Department of General Services
1 Richard J. Conner's Blvd.
Albany , NY 12204

Phone (518) 434-2489


This is great. Thanks so much for the info, Amy!

Bethlehem has a similar facility; wood chips are $8/ cubic yard for nonresidents.

Probably worth mentioning that Albany residents (not just non-residents) can bring a pickup and pay $10 for a truck full of mulch (or the other things that have, too). My truck bed may be about a cubic yard but they don't come out and measure it, so if you have a big truck I imagine it's still $10. You park at the admin building first, pay your money and get a receipt, and then you drive through the mud up to the big piles and they drop it in with one of their big loaders. Great fun for weekend warriors whose trucks don't otherwise see much action.

AOA I love how you let people know about new restaurants, fun local activities, interesting people but....

how DARE you tell people about *my* free mulch and compost HQ?

readers...avert your eyes...move along...nothing to see here....

Word of caution, obvious to some, this free soil/mulch is not organic. And it can/does contain small bits of glass, trash, pests, etc. I have found it increases the chances of baterial/fungal problems for the tomato/potato family. Although this can be solved by treating the soil/mulch with a fixed copper spray or bourdeax mixture which is an organic treatment.

Better hold off a while 'til it gets replenished - it was all gone as of Saturday afternoon. The best part about the mulch/top soil are the "free gifts" you find as if it was a big old box of cereal - got a couple of plastic toy soldiers in our last batch!

I used the free compost last year and had a weed explosion. It was easy to find the source, since I used containers.

Anything like this for Rensselaer (city or county)?

There is a compost program for Rensselaer County. A professor of mine mentioned it, but I'm not sure who you would contact.

FYI, municipal mulch and compost shouldn't be used on your fruit and vegetable crop. Most places post a warning similar to Colonie's:
"Can the yard waste compost which is available from the town be used for vegetable gardens?
No, it is not suitable for vegetable gardening, but can be used for landscaping and general gardening."

how about crushed gravel or top soil?

Not any more... They said "contractors were abusing it" so they've ended the help yourself pile. The only way to get it now is to go to the facility during their limited weekday hours (when most people are at their day job and can't go) and provide proof of residency to pick it up.

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