In Today’s throwaway society, there is absolutely no need to go out and purchase mulch material for your garden, unless it is for the particular aesthetic appearance, “The Look”, sake of the mulch material.
Were you aware that there are a number of mulching materials that you can obtain from around your own community that are free, and some of which can even be even delivered to you for nothing as well.
Impossible you might say. Well I mulch my gardens fairly heavily, and I never pay a cent for the mulch material. As a matter of fact, most of the mulch is willingly delivered to my home for nothing. As the former owners are only too glad to see the back of it, as it would cost them money, time and effort to find other ways of getting rid of it.
I also combine these outside sources of mulch with my own compost, weeds and other organic matter mixed through to achieve a great result in my garden, and so all that it costs me is time and effort.
So what am I talking about? While some of the below list is delivered free, other items I pick up myself, depending on time, circumstances, importance etc.
Grass Clippings from other people in the area or from lawn-mowing contractors.
Wood shavings from local wood turners and carvers, ( Do not use shavings from treated timber).
Small amounts of solid fill from friends who are excavating. This is to assist in raising garden beds, in my heavy clay soil.
Light prunings from shrubs which is shredded by me or put whole into garden
Heavier sticks and logs, which are turned into trellis, garden stakes, garden edges, seats, frames, log planters etc. while they slowly decay.
Newspaper, cardboard, non-rubber carpet underlay, and even carpet and carpet squares. Which is put under other mulch to prevent grass and weed regrowth
Animal manures sometimes mixed with straw from places like Racetracks and Showgrounds, Pony Clubs, Stables etc. I contact them well beforehand to see if any is available.
To this I also add my own weeds, throwing away some which can still be a potential problem, or burying them below the bottom most layer of mulch material to stop them regrowing.
Another item I add is any old potting mix from deceased plants or when repotting plants.
Being a fairly lazy gardener, I throw the material around a bit at a time, as they are available, and let nature mix them for me. On a couple of occasions I have received a bit too much wood shavings so these became path material between some of the garden beds, with a heavy underlay of newspapers. People even tell me that it looks and feels good underfoot.
Never put a large amount of fresh animal manure on any garden, as it will burn any plant around it. Be extremely sparing or let it age first for a few months before applying it to the garden.
I have been living in my new house for about fifteen months, and the mulch layer in all my gardens (there were no gardens originally), is about 10 cm or 4 inches deep. None of which I have paid for and little that I have had to even pick up for myself.
People are even starting to comment on how fast the plants in my gardens are growing in the local heavy black clay soils, and they are surprised when I tell them that I have never bothered to fertilise the plants. The reason for this is that the earliest laid mulch material, is now broken down into plant nutrients and is now feeding my plants as a plant nutrient soup aided by the soil life which has suddenly started appearing in my gardens.
Another benefit that has started to appear in the last few months is the arrival of insect eating wildlife into my garden. Predatory insects and birds are now visiting my gardens on a regular basis, where I saw none this time last year. Bees and butterflies are also starting to visit many of the plants, which have come into flower for the first time this year.
So what can you do to start locating your own supplies of free mulch material, well here are a number of suggestions.
Put a little sign near your gate, something along the lines of ‘Organic mulch required’, or ‘Lawn clipping wanted’. There are sure to be a number of local people who are currently throwing theirs away in your community or even local area. Never mulch solely with grass clippings as they form an impenetrable layer that air and water cannot get through. Always mix it with other things to stop it ‘thatching’, just like a roof over the soil.
See if you can get into contact with local people who are into woodturning and carving, or even local sawmills. And come to some arrangement about unpreserved wood shavings.
Check the local phonebook for local showgrounds/racetracks/stables etc, to find out if any have stable or manure waste to give away, for people willing to pick them up
In other words, start talking around the place that you are after mulch materials and they will soon start coming to you.
The only caution with using other peoples waste material is the chance that you might also import other peoples pests and weeds. I have rarely found it a problem because of heavy mulch on mulch routines. But it is possible.
One point being that when you first start applying mulch to your garden you may see some nitrogen deficiencies occur in some plants. This is because the organisms that are breaking down the mulch material are using up all the available resources of it during the initial breakdown. Once you have gotten past this time the old composted material provide more than enough nitrogen for future processes.
Another thing to be careful of is not to bury or mulch up against the stems of wanted plants, as it may cause further problems for your plants in rot problems around the collar of the stems.
So get out there and talk around the community, find the contacts, believe it or not they will be as grateful as you to solve their particular problems of waste reduction. As well as that, you may start making some new friendships out of the deal; I know I have.