Cheap (Or Free) Mulch Options For The Garden

by Texas Homesteader ~ 

Mulch is a valuable asset in your garden. It preserves moisture, moderates soil temperatures and helps keep your plants healthy too.

But don’t assume your only option is to buy mulch! Check with your city, utility company or local extension agent & you could get it FREE! 

Don't assume your only option is to buy mulch! Check with your city, utility company or local extension agent & you could get it FREE! #TexasHomesteader

Bermuda Grass In The Vegetable Garden

I’ve fought (and lost the battle) against Bermuda grass in my garden every year. It would simply grow into the garden from outside the garden fence.

From there it would grow under the boards of my raised beds and into my vegetable beds, where it was almost impossible to remove. 

Bermuda grass in a garden is very difficult to eradicate. #TexasHomesteader

Those underground rhizomes would grow beneath the wood border making them nearly impossible to remove completely.

So we ripped those wood raised bed borders up and decided to just plant in rows instead.

But how will we keep that Bermuda from coming in through the perimeter of the garden fence?

Keeping Bermuda Grass Out Of The Garden

I decided to make it difficult for a Bermuda grass runner or rhizome to survive long enough to reach my garden by making a wide walkway around the entire perimeter of the garden.

I’d line the area first with empty feed sacks RancherMan has saved for me. This will deprive the soil beneath of light so that nothing can to grow there.

Then I’ll top it with bark mulch to make it look nice as well as give me an easy walking surface. This wide surface should Bermuda grass at bay since it will have to grow a long time just to reach my garden soil.

I use wood bark mulch over paper feed sack in garden walkway to keep bermuda grass away from my planting rows. #TexasHomesteader

But I needed a cheap (or even FREE) source for wood chips.

Can You Get Wood Mulch From Utility Companies?

Many people have said they contacted their utility companies who were all too happy to drop off chipped wood from trees they had to trim from around their power lines. 

But when I reached out to our utility company they said they contract that work out.

I requested that they give me the names of the companies they used and I’d contact them all, to which they replied with a list of four very generic company names.

I googled them for contact info and contacted all four companies. Not a single one even replied.  (Sigh…)

My County Services Had Free Wood Mulch Options

When we lived in a Dallas suburb the city had a location where residents could come pick up mulch and wood chips for free.

Offering free wood mulch is beneficial to the city not to have to haul that botanical matter to the landfill. And it’s also obviously beneficial to the residents to be able to use that material.

Plus it also makes an impact in water reduction since compost conserves moisture for gardens.

But even with all these benefits I was not aware of any such service in our county. So in desperation I contacted our county extension agent (she’s great by the way!).


I was in luck! The extension agent said there was indeed such a service in our county located at a nearby city park.

The place in the park where they stored the wood mulch was unmanned. Residents simply pulled up next to the wood-chip pile and filled up their buckets or the beds of their trucks.

And it was all FREE.

So RancherMan & I loaded about seven large 30-gallon empty cattle protein buckets into our truck and headed to the park.

Free Wood Mulch, No Plastic Bags!

Now I already knew this park was here, we’d passed it many times before. But we had never actually stopped in. It was a lovely place!

And the beautiful sunshiny day meant there were families with their kids all enjoying the park. They were having picnics, playing Frisbee or feeding the ducks at the pond. Lovely!

We’re going to have to bring our grandbabies here soon!

Don't assume your only option is to buy mulch! Check with your city, utility company or local extension agent & you could get it FREE! #TexasHomesteader

In no time RancherMan & I had all our buckets filled and headed back home.

How Much Bark Mulch For Our Garden?


In all it took a total of 14 buckets of bark mulch to thickly line my garden perimeter pathway in an 18-inch wide strip.

It took another 7 buckets of bark for the 18-inch rows between my planting rows.

We’ll probably go one more time and fill the 7 buckets so I can thicken the mulch on the walkways.

Using Waste Products In The Garden For FREE!

I love that I was able to use items that would otherwise go to waste to actually benefit my vegetable garden:

The paper sacks I used to line the garden pathways were just a waste product of our cattle feed.

Wood mulch is a natural material that will degrade over time and be mixed back into the garden soil in subsequent years.

The paper should allow slow percolation of rainwater. It also will slowly degrade over time and be mixed back into the garden soil.

In the meantime, the earthworms will love it, which also will improve my garden soil. SCORE!

You can often get FREE wood mulch from your county or tree trimming companies. #TexasHomesteader



Purchased Bark Mulch Is Expensive, And WASTEFUL!

While at a local big-box home improvement store shortly afterward I saw bags of wood mulch being sold for $3.30 per 2-cubic foot bag. It’s convenient, but I figured I’d do the math…

Each of our buckets would hold over 2 bags worth of mulch, so for just what I’ve used so far my wood mulch would have cost us at least $130 to buy!

Then we’d have to figure out what to do with all the dang plastic bags they are sold in. (have I ever mentioned how much I.  Hate.  Plastic??)

Don't assume your only option is to buy mulch! Check with your city, utility company or local extension agent & you could get it FREE! #TexasHomesteader

As it was, all it cost us was a couple of pleasant trips to a nearby park and our time – no disposable plastic trash! 

It was a good thing for us financially, a good thing for the environment and a good thing for the city to not resort to hauling this precious material to the landfill.

The moral of the story is this: Check with your city (or county) and don’t assume your only option is to buy this stuff!

It's easy to use these tips to save money. #TexasHomesteader

Many cities have similar services so check with your city, utility companies or even call your local extension agent like we did. As it was in our case, it can be a trifecta win for you as well!


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11 thoughts on “Cheap (Or Free) Mulch Options For The Garden

  1. Greg Hill

    Great Share Tammy,

    I knew this but never occurred to me to share it. Your rocking girl….
    Good Job …Great savings for all who need this medium.

  2. Christine Becken

    Tammy, is that in Hunt County?

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Many counties offer this service Christine, it’s best to check with your county extension agent for information. I know in the Dallas area it was located in a section next to the landfill. Tree trimmers and landscapers (and homeowners) could drop off their tree trimmings & brush and the county would throw it through big chippers to make it into mulch. Then all you needed was a driver’s license showing you were a resident and you were welcome to all you could haul off! ~TxH~

  3. Dana

    Hi. I live in Washington State and I found a free mulch source as well. Thank you for encouraging your readers to do this. I enjoyed reading your post!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      So glad you’ve found a free source as well Dana. I’d have bought it if I needed to I guess, but how perfect did it turn out – they needed to get rid of it and I needed to obtain it. Win/win! ~TxH~

  4. Katy SkipTheBag

    Awesome job! Fortunately we took a class about gardening from a local couple who pointed us to a local garden store that had bulk mushroom compost and told us about some tree cutting services that allowed you to pick up wood chips from them for free. We also lucked out and happened across a tree cutting company that would deliver for free! All those bags of mulch add up to a lot of waste!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      YES, Katy, exactly! I love the idea of bark mulch, HATE the idea of them being entombed in plastic. You’re so lucky to find other free sources too, I was totally unsuccessful even getting the tree companies to reply to my emails! ~TxH~

  5. Ginger Dawn Harman

    What a great post. My local recycle center offers free mulch! I am really grateful and so is my garden. I really enjoyed your post! Thank you!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      That’s awesome Ginger. When I lived in the city I had those options available to me as well but it took me a long time to find out about it. Hopefully others will check with their own cities or the county extension agent and take advantage of this great, natural, (oftentimes FREE) resource. So good for the garden too. ~TxH~

  6. Mel

    It is wonderful that you were able to find mulch for free. I’ve never found it free (though I’ve honestly not looked very hard) but we are able to purchase it from a semi-local landfill, and they load it into our dump trailer for us, for something like $40 per trailer load. I love how tidy it looks, and how it is adding biomass to my garden.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      We used to get that kind of material for free when we lived in the city, Mel – it was good in so many ways for the city and also good for the citizen AND the environment. I’d just assumed we had no such mulch-material options living out here. I’m so glad I checked with our extension agent! ~TxH~


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