MULCH: Beneficial and Free

By NancyAnn Gandy (ButterflyChaser) on June 3, 2010

Every garden needs mulch for several reasons, but mulch can be expensive if you buy all that you need. But you may not have to pay a cent for it!

Mulch is essential to gardening. You can transform a yardful of red clay into beautiful organic black gold by applying mulch every year or two. Over time, mulch biodegrades, slowly transforming your soil. Mulching also conserves water and shades plants' roots. In addition, it cuts down on weeds while enhancing the beauty of your gardens.

Mulch can be expensive, especially if you garden on a grand scale. But in most areas, tree trimmers are all too eager to dump their wood chips on your property at the bargain price of FREE! In my city, they pay about $40 a truckload to dump at the city landfill. By dumping on my property, they save money and I save money.

And it's a myth that you can't apply fresh tree trimmings to your gardens. People have sworn to me that it will burn up my gardens. HA!!! I've been doing it for years and have not lost a single plant because of my fresh mulch. If you're only applying it 5 or 6 inches thick, you have nothing to worry about. If you were going to put it on 2 ft thick, then you might. But 6 inches deep doesn't get hot enough to hurt your plants. I'm in the South where summers can be over 100 degrees. I apply fresh mulch anytime I have it on hand, including in the heat of summer.

You'll need a spot where a tree trimmer can dump a big load of mulch. We have a vacant lot so they sometimes dump me a dozen loads in a month or two. Some of it will have time to biodegrade before I can get to it, but most of it will be used immediately.

When talking to a tree trimmer, make sure you tell him you want the trimmings for mulching your garden and ask him to bring you stuff that is not diseased or pest-infested. And ask if his blades are sharp. If his blades are dull, the mulch won't be finely chipped; it will be in long stringy strips that tangle up so badly in the pile that you can't pitchfork or shovel it out.

Pine mulch is my absolute favorite mulch. The pine needles don't shred, but the bark does. The pine needles lie beautifully and really look great in paths and beds. And when it's fresh, ahhhhhh, it smells so good!

Bradford pear mulch is my next favorite. It has such a fruity scent. I can step outside and sniff the air and know immediately if the tree trimmer has dropped me a load.

And don't forget to thank your tree trimmer every now and then with produce from your garden or a gift card to his favorite restaurant. That will keep him coming back year after year.

If there are no trimmers trimming in your area, check with your city landfill or recycling center. They often give away mulch for free. Ours has a backhoe and loads it too, so you just drive a truck over there and haul it away.

A trick I learned is, before loading mulch in a truck, put down a tarp in the truck bed first. Then when you've shoveled out most of the mulch wherever you want it, you can pull the tarp to drag the rest of the mulch out, saving quite a bit of effort.

Don't forget to save your fruit and veggie scraps, as well as shredded documents and newspapers to add to your compost pile. Or you can apply them directly to the garden if you don't have a compost bin. I rake away some mulch and dump scraps and shreds in, then rake the mulch over it so no one ever sees it.

I hope these tips help save you money while replenishing and beautifying your gardens.

About NancyAnn Gandy
I've been gardening in the Midsouth since 1999, since we finished building my house. I actually thought I had black thumbs--nothing I'd ever planted had survived. But then my sister let me dig up about 200 yellow Richard Wallace cannas from her yard that June. I planted them everywhere around my house, hoping they'd find a spot they liked so I'd have a few. I was certain most would die. Boy, was I wrong!

By August, all these cannas were 4 ft tall and blooming! We had a mild winter so they were only dormant for a couple of months. And by July of the next summer, they were a whopping 7 ft tall and had at least doubled in quantity. I had a canna forest all the way around my house! And that's all it took for me to begin killing bermuda and planting anything I could get my hands on. (By the way, these cannas still grace my gardens.)

Now my entire yard is a botanical garden; I have no lawn. I grow all kinds of plants, many of which I was told would not grow here. Over the years, I learned to trust my own instincts and see for myself what will grow and what techniques work for me. Because my gardens are massive, I water and fertilize very little. But I mulch aggressively to cut down on weeding, watering, and to replenish the soil. Gardening is my passion and my gardens soothe my spirit. I'm happiest when I'm up to my elbows in dirt.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
informative article Lynxx Oct 31, 2010 5:35 PM 0
Stables, free manure! NEILMUIR1 Jun 25, 2010 7:25 PM 5
Free mulch marti Jun 14, 2010 10:12 AM 15
Your Gardens UniQueTreasures Jun 7, 2010 10:56 AM 35
Thank you Nancy Ann UniQueTreasures Jun 6, 2010 9:03 AM 7

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