Cheap mulch ideas - I've already spent a fortune!

tweedbunnyMay 21, 2007

A bag of mulch doesn't go very far - and at 5 bucks for 2 cu feet, I've already overdone myself! :)

Anyone have any great ideas?

I've got oodles of newspaper and I've heard something about using that - but how? My plants are pretty close together so it'd be a pain trying to fold or rip it up to fit inbetween.

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Do you have lawn cuttings? I use them in my roses, but I'm careful not to spread them too thickly or too close to the bottom of the rose bush in case they heat up as they decompose. They do keep the weeds down.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 10:49PM
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Do you have a compost pile? Not quite done compost can be as good as mulch. I got a bunch from the city compost site as well as some compost early this year. Early bird gets the worm here in Ramsey cty. I also mix their mulch with my compost pile as I think it adds some woody fiber.

I made raised beds this year and I topped them with about 3 inches of city compost and have very few weeds so far. I thought of Caesars Pizza boxes (the other side is plain) and usually half of them don't have oil stain. Since son works there we get a lot of free pizzas. Haven't used them yet, and recycling don't take them (sigh), so in the trash they go.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 2:52AM
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There are probably plenty of resources in your area. Contact your county extension agent. Also, look for the local garden writer at your newspaper. If he/she has a website it's probably full of useful information.

We have one county that gives away mulch and compost. There is also a tree service around the corner from us that lets us take away wood chips by the truckload for free. It just takes research.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 12:57PM
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Tweedy, you're paying $$$ for mulch! Oh, my. Yes, you'll break the bank in record time.

Call your electric company and ask if they have shredded tree trimmings - will usually dump these at your house for free. Ditto the phone company - they're always trimming trees away from wires. Are there industries in your area like food processing, or oil presses? You can often get waste products for free - we got 8 cubic feet of tofu waste once and grew 14' sunflowers in it. NOT suitable for mulch though - the smell was amazing before we got it dug in. But the point is companies, especially smaller ones, are often glad to give you stuff.

Call your city parks department or street maintenance for the same. Also, the solid waste department. Not this time of year, but after Christmas our city collects Xmas trees and shreds them, and gardeners can pick up for free.

If you have a paper shredder you can shred your newspaper - mine goes quite quickly. Sometimes I just lay it down and wet it, if I want it pretty, I toss some finished compost over it.

Also you can always buy a bale or two of straw if you must.

I also use weeds as mulch - ("sheet composting")

If you've got a large wooded lot you could invest in a chipper shredder - we bought one for $500 19 years ago and it's kept us in mulch ever since - with the bonus that every spring we get Morels growing in last fall's mulch. Too yummy.

If you're willing to work, you can look up stables and offer to carry away their sweepings - we get manure mixed with wood chips in our neck of the woods, spread in the fall, or the well aged stuff at the bottom can be spread fresh and looks black and crumbly - almost earth - with that rich dark earth smell. Nice.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 9:59PM
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dixielib(z6/7 Ga)

wrong time of year...but next fall ask area businesses for the bales of straw or hay they made their fall displays with. this time of year, landscapers use these same bales to avoid wash-off's of newly planted grass on might salvage a bale or two from them. call horse stables near you for their straw/horse poop cast off's. cruise curbsides for bags of grass clippings.....

    Bookmark   May 27, 2007 at 10:37PM
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i have a friend whose trees (and neighbors' trees) drop lots of pine needles in his backyard. i love to stop by to rake up the stuff, bag it, and take home to use as mulch. he's happy because he doesn't have to pay for my "lawn service," and i'm happy to get free mulch! perhaps you have a neighbor or friend with a "pine needle problem" ... ?

durham NC

    Bookmark   May 28, 2007 at 12:14AM
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natalie4b(7b GA)

My local Home Depot is seling broken bags of soil, mulch at very low prices. I spent a fortune on both before, and did not know it is so cheap if the bag is torn. It is not always available, though last two times I was lucky to purchase at a fraction of a cost. And I am greatful, since there are few new beds that are in a process of being made in my garden.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2007 at 9:42PM
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wrong time of year, but other people's bagged autumn leaves are free.

Sunday evenings are good times to look;
lots of people rake leaves on the week-end & set them at the curb or in the alley on Sundays.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 2:09PM
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I found that the local garden center had lots of torn bags specially on Mondays, that were sold for much cheaper. However, a neighbor told me the cheapest you could buy came from the landscaping company not far from us. They deliver by the truckload, so I talked to another neighbor to order together. For $70 we mulched both homes' front and backyards, and we didn't have to carry heavy plastic bags around!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 11:22PM
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...that you might have good luck asking the truck driver for tree trimmings rather than calling the electric company.

Here, the trimming is done by an independent contractor, so the utility company couldn't help.

There may be regular customers (landscape companies, big nurseries, etc) who take all the trimmings in certain areas, but I have had good luck stopping & asking the truck drivers to drop off the trimmings at my house instead of at the dump.

It doesn't always work (sometimes they say okay but they never show up; maybe they forget, maybe they already have a customer for it, etc), but it works often enough to make it worthwhile.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 10:29AM
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natalie4b(7b GA)

My Home Depot sells mulch at a fraction of a cost if the bags are torn. I just bought a ton of garden soil very-very cheap. Wish I knew about it before... Oh, well. There are lots of flower beds to make, so I see saving money in a future. Yay! Love a great sale.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2007 at 3:28PM
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I just received my first load of free mulch from the electric company.
It was delivered the same day I called, all fresh from that days work.
There were 5 other families that also wanted a load just that day.

The guy comes over, checks over your drive way and picks a location.
He then marks it with a flag.
Next thing you know the big truck is out there dumping it!

There is a tad of green mixed in as its totally fresh whole trees, but the green quickly fades to brown.

If you plan on getting a lot of this free stuff, buy a pitch fork.
It cut my work down to nothing. Very much worth the $30 for free mulch.
I cant tell you how fun it is to pile mulch as thickly as I want on my acre.
I dont have to worry when another free load is a call away.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 10:10PM
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pookiejean(z9 TX)

My next door neighbor was having his trees trimmed. I saw all of this lovely mulch--wood chips and shredded leaves--blowing into the back of their truck from their huge wood chipper. They were so happy to to give the whole load to me--dumping it for my large garden.

Have used the same tree trimming company for more loads of mulch. It costs them $50 to dump one load into a landfill, so they are more than generous with the mulch.

I wet the newspaper I use for mulch and then spread the wood chips and shredded leaves over the paper. Worms love newspaper and of course, plants love worms.

You will be doing a good thing keeping mulch out of the landfills.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2007 at 4:15PM
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I've been using my confetti shredder to make some awesome mulch and compost. It doesn't come out in strings (though those would work too) but in tiny football shaped shreds. I went through my filing cabinets and shredded all the things I would have normally thrown away, gathered my daughter's doodles that we didn't want to save (she literaly scribbles on a paper, then goes to the next), I even had a book that I didn't need (stupid Disney stock portfolio with a bunch of mumbo jumbo that they send out) and I just ripped out the pages, and there's always junk mail, old phonebooks and newspapers. All non-glossy of course (so no envelopes with the plastic screen or coupons). I even placed an ad on freecycle for mulch and already got 5 replies and a free composter. Everything that I didn't used as mulch went into my compost bin.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 2:42PM
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Call your electric company and ask if they have shredded tree trimmings

I'm with buzzy on this one. I got my final revenge on two box elders this year as i fed them through the chippers to mulch every bed on 1 1/2 acres of land. It works reall well in perennial beds, but be careful to wear sturdy gloves to avoid splinters.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 12:02AM
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This year we went and picked up free mulch from out county waste management. You have to haul it out but when you have a large garden it is worth the time! What we picked up- for free- we would have paid over $150.00 for! It was great quality too.
Some counties also give out free composters in our area too.
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 5:27PM
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I used pine needles this year and was really happy with the results and they broke down very quickly

    Bookmark   September 17, 2007 at 10:27PM
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stephsgarden(z7 MD)

I called a local tree company and they delivered a whole truckload of fresh mulch to my house for free. I can't believe that I used to pay $$ for this stuff.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2007 at 4:05PM
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bencjedi(6 - Central Kentucky)

I found a bulk materials place in my area that sold me a cubic yard of mulch for $8. I also bought their thoroughbred-based compost for the same. For $16 my full size pickup truck drove like a tank, but it was well worth it.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2007 at 9:55PM
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One place the dump composted tree clippings and dirt in one area of dump and on lucky days they'd load my pickup for me, other days I got more exercise. Here I worked up the nerve to ask the trimmers to dump in my yard. Only used one of the two truckloads so far but lovely to be generous with it not stingy. Also have paid a few $ to get a dumperload of chicken house scrapings to compost. She wouldn't give me too much as had others wanting it, and it's powerful stuff to shovel back out at home- but mixed with leaves and straw grew corn and pumpkins on otherwise unimproved ground for me.

I also gather folks' yard refuse especially in pine needle season here. Either their own pine needles mixed with their yard leaves and grass clippings is great for my acid lovers- blueberries and camellias- or their bought pine straw mulch from last year when they change it out for same purpose or in compost. In TX I gathered enough bagged leaves to have a 4' by 20' rotting leaf pile. Of course we had to move in year four when it was absolutely perfect.

Since I no longer have a pick up truck I spent $300 on a trailer I can tow behind my van. Lot cheaper than a pickup and now the yard cleanings cost no more than gasoline and my time and effort.

I also pile my grass and even better grass and fall leaves gathered in mower in piles all over yard. Now getting some rough not finished compost great as a mulch (I hope- will report later if it all grows grass in my beds!) from the older sides of those piles. Considering getting a cow-just for the manure you understand- but might check with getting manure form a local dairy- will probably cost me but if they load my trailer would be worth it.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2007 at 10:51PM
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Honestly gardening can get pretty expensive at times. I've used old fish bones to fertilize my soil and it works well. It's great that you're looking for other ways to save money when it comes to gardening.

Here is a link that might be useful: Frugal advice

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 6:27PM
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heygeno(z5 oh)

Just call your local tree services. I have been getting free truckloads for 25 years .
HOWEVER..... You may get everything from poison ivy to black walnut in that mix --so dont use on tomato plants the first year. The pile smells great the first few days if pine is in it --then turns to a BAD smell for a few weeks as it heats up.
If that is a prob-- just get it in the fall then it winters over .
I also lay down sheets of cardboard under mulch. No weed seeds will break through that for a few years !

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 10:13AM
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joellenh(6b Jenks)

Tree service, phone co, and electric co for wood chippings are a GREAT idea. I am always replenishing the mulch in my paths and am tired of spending a fortune. I am going to start making phone calls tomorrow.

Thanks for the great idea!


    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 1:23PM
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Oak leaves make wonderful mulch, and are much slower to break down than most other leaves. I gathered over 500 bags of leaves last fall over a period of a few weeks, I could do about 200 bags on a Sat or Sunday if I just hauled and gathered and then dumped them later, at about 9 to 12 bags per trip in my Chevy Tracker. They're free except for the gas to cruise the neighborhood. Even now at the end of July many of them aren't totally decomposed and are still keeping the weeds at bay, despite a wet and warm spring and summer that promotes rapid decomposition.

My goal this fall is 1000 bags, weather and time permitting.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 3:31PM
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You can use newspapers without shredding them. Lay them down 10 pages thick and then cover with a light covering of mulch to hide them.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 6:37PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Any kind of organic material that's not visually offensive and of an acceptable size/texture can be used as mulch. I quit buying mulch many years ago, and instead put leaves, yard trimmings, pine needles, coffee grounds, grass from mower bag, whatever presents itself, when it presents itself. Green grass turns brown and mulch-y looking in a couple days, and the mixture of materials provides a wider range of nutrients for plants and the microbes that decompose materials into a form plants can use. More frequent additions of fresh materials keep the soil food chain alive.

Here is a link that might be useful: Brief but extemely informative lecture about soil microbiology

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 11:19AM
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I use leaves that didn't get bagged from last fall. Layer them in beds and around plants. Thin layer of mulch on top.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 12:15PM
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