In today’s post, I thought we would take a look at sources of free mulch. I hope to be able to offer you some ideas for sources that perhaps you haven’t thought of. Whether it’s wood chips, leaves, straw or other materials, any of it will help to control weeds, improve soil fertility, regulate soil temperature and conserve moisture. Let’s get started!
Today, I received an e-mail from Alltreeexperts.com in Atlanta, Georgia regarding free mulch. They offer free mulch to folks in the Atlanta area even if they aren’t removing a tree from their yard. If you are close to the route they are on, they will drop the mulch at no cost. This benefits the homeowner if they don’t want the mulch, the company since they don’t have to dispose of it and the person receiving the chips. It’s a win-win-win! Have you contacted any of the tree services in your area to see if they’ll drop off chips for you? I’m certain that more than a few tree contractors would be delighted to drop a dump truck’s worth for you at no cost. One word of caution: be certain that the wood that was chipped wasn’t walnut. While most of the allelopathic toxin is in the roots, it’s also in the branches of the walnut.
Another possible source is your municipal landfill. Often times, they have areas where citizens are allowed to dump brush and debris. This plant debris is then ground up and most localities will give it away for free…some make you load it yourself and others will even load it for you. With Hurricane Irene that swept up the Eastern Seaboard last September, many localities are overrun with mulch. Contact your local county or city and see if there is free mulch for the taking.
Every year, millions of leaves fall from the trees that we work so hard to cultivate. And every year, gardeners rake up all of this free mulch and send it to the landfill. AHHHHHH! What are we thinking? Instead of sending this future black gold to the landfill, we should be coveting this free source of mulch. If it’s in your own garden and you insist on a tidy landscape, run the lawnmower over the leaves, chop them up, and then use it around your plants. Or compost it. If you are unfortunate and don’t have large volumes of leaves to contend with, go around your neighborhood in the fall and ask for bagged leaves. The leaves are in nice little neat trashbags that you can store until you need them. No more going to Home Depot for bagged compost or mulch…you’ll have your own.
Straw is probably best used in your vegetable garden instead of around your landscape plants. It tends to blow away and scatter in heavy winds, but your veggies will be none the wiser. If you are fortunate to live in a rural area, or at least close to one, contact farmers. They often have spoiled straw available that you can purchase for little or nothing. If you’ve never broken open a bale of straw, you may be surprised at the volume of straw that is in that compact little rectangle. If you can get your hands on a round bale of straw, you’ve hit the motherlode! Just make sure it’s straw and not hay. Hay contains the seeds of the plants that were harvested and you don’t want to seed your garden with that! Remember the point is to keep the weeds out.
If you really want to make sure that the weeds are kept at bay in your garden, consider putting down cardboard first and then mulching over top. Sources of cardboard are everywhere…instead of recycling all of the cardboard that enters your house, save it for the garden. Go to your local grocery store and ask for the boxes that the produce and other items come in. Go to your local appliance store and see if you can have the refrigerator boxes…those boxes can cover a lot of ground in the garden.
I’d really like to compile a list of free mulch sources…can the Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers help me out with this? What a great resource that would be for other gardeners. If you know of a free source, leave me a comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy gardening!