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You Can Grow It: Boise compost giveback program

If you live in Boise, there is a way you can get free compost to use in your garden.

BOISE, Idaho — Adding compost to your garden is one of the best natural ways to make it more fertile for growing flowers and vegetables. And if you live in the city of Boise, there is a way for you to get the compost you need free of charge.

Garden master Jim Duthie tells us more about the Boise "Curb It" recycling program, and the compost giveback that’s becoming more popular each year.

Every gardener knows that the secret to success for a healthy garden is good soil. And depending upon where you live in the Treasure Valley, you may have to amend that soil. Adding compost is the best way to enhance the fertility of your garden soil.

Unlike chemical fertilizers, compost is made up of decomposed organic material. The most common compost is recycled from plant waste, including fallen leaves and other plant cuttings, lawn grass clippings, and even shredded Christmas trees. As the plant waste decays, it breaks down into a soil-like substance that’s full of nutrients which, when added to your garden, feeds your plants.

Many Idaho gardeners, like these that posted pictures on the 'You Can Grow It' Facebook group, have been busy with spring projects, like building garden boxes, and adding compost-rich soil for the best planting beds they can get for their flowers and vegetables.

But composting isn’t only good for your yard and garden -- it also saves money and benefits the environment by reducing the amount of waste that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

That’s why the city of Boise began its composting program, called “Curb It,” in 2017, and so far it’s been an outstanding success.

“As of March 2020, we’ve collected over 81,000 tons of material through the compost program. All of that material has been diverted from the landfill. And that equates to just over one ton per household to-date, which is a pretty great number, we think,” said Sydney Bennett, Boise Public Works.

RELATED: Boise free compost sites to reopen on Friday

Nearly 97 percent of Boise residents participate in the compost recycling program. The city provides the recycle cart, and you provide the recyclable waste materials to make the compost. In return, the city makes the compost available to residents at no cost.

“To date we’ve given back over 5,000 cubic yards to our residents, who have access to that material for free. We think it’s a very neat and unique part of this program,” said Bennett.

Compost recycling was suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions earlier this spring, but now both permanent compost pick-up sites will be open again as of Friday, May 8th. One of the compost pick-up sites is located at the Idaho Botanical Garden, and the other is at the city’s Joplin Road facility. Both sites will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Compost will be delivered to the sites as it becomes available. Pick-up is self-serve, with a limit of two cubic yards per customer per year. You’ll need to bring your own sturdy containers, shovels, and transportation. And after you fill out a waiver form, you can start collecting your compost.

In the past, the program has also included neighborhood compost givebacks, where compost is delivered to pre-approved neighborhood locations. You can even arrange to be a compost host in your own neighborhood. Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions, that program is on hold until further notice.

“We’ve heard over the past several weeks from the community that there is a lot of demand for compost, so we want to focus our efforts on keeping the compost sites stocked for the next several weeks,” Bennett said.

Other Treasure Valley communities offer limited recycling options, but Boise is the only Treasure Valley city that has a compost giveback program. Commercial use is not permitted, but the compost giveback is free to all participating compost customers in the city of Boise.

For more information on the Boise composting program, including how to sign up, and what can and cannot be recycled, check out the city of Boise composting website.

Watch more 'You Can Grow It':

See them all on our YouTube playlist here: