8 Ways You Might Be Able To Score Free Mulch For Your Yard Or Garden

Mulch is an important component in sustainable gardening. It adds numerous benefits to your plants and is a wonderful soil improver. But you don't have to spend lots of money to cover your garden beds with mulch because there are many ways to score free mulch for your yard. You don't even have to go too far because you might find the perfect mulching materials in or near your own yard. You can use things like dried leaves, lawn clippings, pine needles, or seaweed gathered from a nearby beach. 

When you add mulch to your garden beds, it helps to conserve moisture. This is because the soil is shaded from the sun so evaporation is reduced which is excellent for drought-proofing your garden during the drier months. Mulch also helps to regulate the soil temperature because it acts as a blanket. This helps to keep the roots cooler in summer and the ground warmer in winter. Plus, as the mulch breaks down over time, it adds valuable nutrients into the soil. It also helps to improve soil structure and replenishes beneficial soil organisms. This is essential for healthy and well-structured soils. Finally, mulch can suppress weeds in your garden because the weed seeds won't get the sunlight they need to germinate. Now that you know the benefits of mulching, here are eight ways to score free mulch for your garden. Remember, when working with natural materials, it's always best to wear gloves to protect yourself from bacteria and fungi.

1. Don't waste the leaves from your deciduous trees

One of the major principles of sustainable gardening is to repurpose what you already have on hand and what nature provides. If you have deciduous trees in your yard, don't dispose of those leaves that you've raked up. Instead, throw them on your garden beds as a natural mulch. These can be layered quite thickly as they usually won't take long to break down and add nutrients to the soil. This gives you free mulch from your garden every year and is one of best eco-friendly mulch options you can find.

2. Keep an eye out for professional tree pruners in your area

Professional tree pruners will have their own commercial mulching machine that they use to mulch the tree branches. The mulch is gathered in a truck and when the truck is full, it needs to be emptied so the work can continue. To save travel time, these tree pruners will appreciate you asking if they want to empty their truck in your yard. This is an excellent way to get free wood chip mulch, as this is the best kind of mulch to prevent weeds growing in your yard.

3. Check with your county or municipality for free mulch

Many local counties and municipalities run a free mulch program for residents. This mulch usually comes from the maintenance performed in your local parks and gardens when they trim trees and shrubs. Check with your local county office to see where you can collect free mulch for your garden. You'll need your own shovel and bags to collect the free mulch from one of these extensive mulch piles. For example, the municipal service center in Lenexa, Kansas has free, unlimited mulch for residents year round.

4. Find some pine trees

Pine needles make excellent mulch and contrary to common belief, they won't make your soil acidic. Take a walk around your neighborhood to see if you can find any pine trees. Ask the owner of the property whether you can collect some of the pine needles for your garden — you get free mulch while saving your neighbors the work of raking. Collect the needles and place them in large bags or containers. Clean garbage bins with lids are great for this.  

5. Gather some seaweed if you live near the coast

Seaweed is a great mulch for your garden and is perfect if you live near the coast where it will be in abundance on the beach. But before you head down to gather some, make sure you check with your local municipality to see whether you need a license and whether there's a limit on the amount you can gather. Have something sturdy to put the seaweed into to bring it back home. Also make sure that you only gather dry seaweed that has piled up around the high tide line.

6. Grow some comfrey for a nutritious mulch on your veggie garden

Comfrey is one of those magical plants that everyone should have growing in their garden. It adds nutrients to the topsoil as the deep roots gather the nutrients from the sub-soil. The large leaves can be harvested straight from the plant and shredded up with garden shears to make mulch for your veggie gardens. The shredded leaves contain high amounts of nitrogen and potassium and will provide your veggie garden with an abundance of these nutrients for healthy growth. 

7. Repurpose your lawn clippings

If you have a nice luscious lawn without too many weeds that you mow regularly, you can use those lawn clippings as mulch. They'll add lots of nitrogen to your soil as they break down. Bear in mind that they'll break down fairly quickly so they'll need to be replenished fairly often. Another idea is to mix your lawn clippings with any dry leaves that you've raked up. This combination makes the most incredible humus when it eventually breaks down and is great for improving heavy clay soil in your garden

8. Find a horse ranch that gives away free mulch

If you live anywhere near a horse ranch, you might be able to score some free mulch for your garden that's composed of manure mixed with straw. Ranches use straw as bedding in their stables and this is cleaned out regularly and dumped into large piles to compost. As a bonus, there's horse manure mixed with the straw. As this mulch breaks down it will add valuable nutrients to your soil and is excellent for vegetable gardens and around fruit trees. Only use fully composted manure in gardens.