Compost is so important to the health of our gardens. Any Natural Gardener should aim for zero organic matter to leave their property in garbage or green waste collections. It makes no sense to throw compostable material away only to buy compost from the gardening store. Bokashi systems work well in the suburbs and once the bucket is filled it can be used to accelerate your external compost heap. There are many different composting techniques, but the Hot vs Cold debate is the most discussed. Hot Composting is faster and if done properly it will kill pathogens, seeds and deter pests. However, for the average suburbanite the typical cold composting approach takes much less effort and is more likely to become a household routine. These days there are also some good options to purchase affordable and ethically produced compost and your local Council is a good starting point.
Mulch is an input that many Australian suburban gardeners tend to purchase as our increasingly smaller sized gardens can rarely produce enough organic material.
Nevertheless, shredding of leaves, bush of tree branches, provides a great source of free mulch. Autumn leaves can be collected from your own property and, with their permission, those of neighbours. Even lawn clippings can be used as a mulch. (Yes Natural Gardeners can have lawns!) Throwing such material away and then purchasing mulch is surely the definition of madness.
However when we do purchase additional mulch we can consider options that are possibly more frugal and ethical. Councils often provide cheap mulch to rate payers and some arborists sell cheap wood chips. Fodder Stores are also a good source of cheap Straw and Lucerne. Generally speaking, healthy Natural Gardens will chew through more mulch as the increased soil life is always busy incorporating it into the soil.
Manure is included here as Brown Carbon rather than as a Fertiliser - although it is most certainly both. Manure contains nitrogen but it also adds a significant amount of carbon to the soil. This is why some forms of manure can be effective in assisting with water retention in sandy soils and help loosen compacted clay soils. One of the best ways to use manure in the garden is to ensure it is aged and combined with compost.
The most common forms of manure available to Australian suburbanites are chicken, cow and horse. Those lucky enough to have chickens have access to a regular source of “chook poo”, but for most, manure is an external input that they must purchase. Local Hobby Farms, Stables, and Bird Fanciers are all potential sources of cheap/free manure.
In addition to combining it with compost as a soil conditioner, why not try some of the Natural Farming recipes contained in the Microorganism pages of this website.