Because it can be pricey, gardeners who don’t know where to get free mulch often skip this important part of maintaining a healthy garden. Without mulch, though, you’ll spend more time pulling weeds and more money watering your garden throughout the growing season. A good layer of mulch, 3 to 4 inches deep, will discourage weeds from taking root. Since it acts as a barrier between the strong summer sun and your garden soil, mulch also helps keep the ground from drying out.
While stone mulch works best for landscaping, wood mulch is a much better alternative in flower and vegetable gardens. That’s because, over time, the wood breaks down and enriches the soil. At the end of the gardening season, you can leave the mulch in place for aesthetic purposes. Once the soil begins to warm in Spring, dig it into the dirt to prevent compaction, improve soil tilth, and add nutrients.
Most home improvement stores and garden centers offer bags of mulch which can cost anywhere from $2 to $7 per bag. For a garden of 60 cubic feet, you could wind up spending over $200 on mulch alone! Once you know where to get free mulch you can skip that expense.
Where To Get Free Mulch For Your Garden
City and County Dumps
Many municipalities collect branches following significant storms or hold “spring clean-up” drives so residents can dispose of theirs. Often, these county and city entities chip the gathered branches then give them away to residents looking for free mulch. All you need is a truck and a tarp to put the mulch on. To find out if your community offers free mulch, contact your city clerk’s office or visit the city website. Remember, this is typically a seasonal offering so you’ll want to find out in advance if it’s an option available to you.
Tree Removal Services
Unless they have a contract with a disposal company, tree companies need a place to get rid of the chipped and shredded branches they prune. Call around to different tree services in your area to find one that gives it away. You might even find they’re willing to deliver free mulch in bulk right to your driveway. If you’re lucky enough to find a company to bring the mulch to you, be sure to spread a tarp on your driveway for them to dump it on. A tarp will make cleanup much easier and, depending on how much mulch you requested, you may be able to pull the tarp from your driveway to the garden.
Rent or Borrow a Wood Chipper
Many of the larger home improvement stores offer wood chipper rentals. In the past, we’ve gone in with neighbors to rent one following major storms for the relatively low price of $60 per day, which we divided between three families. Taking turns, we each fed our fallen branches through the chipper and hauled them back to our yards. Granted, it wasn’t completely free — our cost was $20 plus manual labor — but sharing the rental expense between four families made it far less expensive than buying bagged mulch.
Use Old Newspapers In Smaller Gardens
For small gardens, newspaper makes an absolutely fine mulch. Since newspapers are printed with soy-based ink these days, they don’t pose any threat to your plants. It’s a more economical alternative for backyard and rural gardens where you don’t have to worry about homeowner associations or picky neighbors complaining about how it looks. To use newspaper as a mulch lay several pages down between vegetable rows and snug them up to the base of your plants. Cover this with fallen leaves or grass clippings and it will “compost in place” throughout the growing season, improving the soil while it helps retain moisture and prevent weeds.
Bonus tip: Buy straw bales for autumn or Halloween decorations, then spread it around the base of your plants and on top of your pruned roses before the first hard frost. It will act as mulch, while also improving your soil.
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