Free Mushroom Mulch Growing San Diego Fans

Local farmer gives away popular mulch

Kevin Walden drove more than 50 miles to get to a San Diego County mushroom farm and he wasn't even interested in the mushrooms.

Walden wanted the dirt the mushrooms were growing in and he brought a trailer to haul it away.

"I use this straight but my wife mixes it in the soil, in our garden," said Walden.

So why would he drive so far for the used mushroom mulch?

The quality, the availability and most of all, the price. Mountain Meadow Mushroom Farm in Escondido gives it away for free.

"We give it to the neighborhood," said farm owner Gary Crouch, "The word has gone out over the years."

And today the mountain of mulch doesn't last too long.

Lin Luu felt lucky she was able to fill six bags of the popular amendment.

"It used to be a big pile, really really big," said Luu, "Now it's almost gone."

The mulch comes from a compost made at the farm. It includes straw from the stables at the Del Mar Race Track. Added to the straw is a recipe of items including peat moss, cotton seed meal and grape pumice.

The mulch is used to grow white button mushrooms and other varieties.

But the mulch is only good for so long. After three crops of mushrooms the mulch is depleted of nitrogen and needs to be replaced. That is when it is collected for gardeners to pick up.

"We don't use any chemicals, we don't use any pesticides which is really important," said farm owner Gary Crouch, "Then once we're done we sterilize it so nothing else will grow and then we take it and dump it out in that pile."

Crouch says the mulch is great for growing tomatoes and roses and other plants. He says the mulch is used by community gardens, schools and local backyards. It is often used to amend sandy or soil that is heavy with clay.

But if you want the free mulch you need to call ahead to make sure the popular mulch isn't all taken. Gary Crouch says people should call before coming out. 

The Mountain Meadow Mushroom Farm is located at 26948 North Broadway in Escondido. The phone number to call ahead is: (760) 749-1201.

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