by Texas Homesteader ~
Mulch is a valuable asset in your garden. It preserves moisture & moderates soil temperatures 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!
Mulch in Garden Walkway and Pathways
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 raised bed boards and into my veggie plantings, where it was almost impossible to remove.
So we ripped up the short raised beds we’d built and decided to just plant in rows. But how will we keep that Bermuda from coming in through the perimeter of the fence?
I decided to make a walkway around the entire perimeter of the garden wide enough to keep Bermuda grass at bay. I’d line the area first with paper feed sacks RancherMan has saved for me so that nothing will try to grow there. Then I’ll top it with bark mulch to make it look nice as well as give me a walking surface. But I needed a cheap (or even FREE) source for wood chips.
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. Not a single one even replied. (Sigh…)
Wood Mulch Options From County Services
So in desperation I contacted our county extension agent (she’s great by the way!).
I told her when we lived in a Dallas suburb, the city had a location where residents could come pick up mulch and wood chips for free.
It was beneficial to the city not to have to haul that botanical matter to the landfill. And it was also obviously beneficial to the residents to be able to use that material.
Plus it also made an impact in water reduction since compost conserves moisture so well for gardens. But even with all these benefits I was not aware of any such service in our county.
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 in 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 empty 30-gallon 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!
In no time RancherMan & I had all our buckets filled and headed back home.
In all, it took a total of 14 buckets of bark mulch to thickly line my garden in an 18-inch wide strip. It took another 7 buckets of bark for the 18-inch rows between my planting areas. We’ll probably go one more time and fill the 7 buckets so I can thicken the mulch on the walkways.
But I love that I used items that would otherwise go to waste: The paper sacks I lined the garden pathways with were just a waste byproduct of our cattle feed. And the bark mulch is a natural material that will degrade over time and be mixed back into the garden soil in subsequent years.
I’ve used plastic (almost against my will) to line the garden walkways in previous years. But the plastic didn’t allow rain to percolate into the round and the ground ended up soured over time.
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!
Purchased Bark Mulch Is Expensive, And WASTEFUL!
While at a local big-box home improvement store recently I saw bags of wood mulch being sold for $3.30 per 2-cubic ft bag. 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??)
As it was, all it cost us was a couple of pleasant trips to a nearby park and our time – no disposable plastic trash!
As I said before, it was a good thing for us financially, a good thing for the environment and a good thing for the city to not haul 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!
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!
My Favorite Garden Hacks
- Easy Garden Planning Spreadsheet
- Getting A Jump: Planting An Indoor Greenhouse
- Repurposed Cardboard Seed-Starting Pots
- 3-Sister’s Garden – The Original Companion Planting
- Planting A Large Galvanized Trough
- Tricking Birds AWAY From Your Strawberry Plants
- Easy Compost For A Healthy Garden
- Propping Tender Seedlings
- Cheap (or FREE) Wood Mulch For The Garden
- Using Vining Plants For Living Mulch
- Homestead Hack: Remember Where You Planted Seeds
- Keeping Potted Plants Watered
- Planting A Blueberry Bush In Galvanized Tub
- Stevia – Growing Your Own Sweetener!
- How I Use EcoBricks In The Garden
- Repurposing A Coffee Can For Deep-Soak Watering
- How Leaves Benefit Your Garden
- My Simple, Zero-Waste Herb Drying Setup
- The Lazy Gardener’s Plant List – Plant Once, Eat For Years!
- How To Tell When Watermelon Is Ripe
- Luffa A Surprising Zucchini Substitute!
- How To Make Your Own Garden Soil
- Easy Homemade Seed Tape
Want To Read Our Landscape Tips?
- Adding An Outdoor Living Space
- Landscaping On The Cheap
- No Waste (and Less Expensive) Fill Dirt For Gardens
- Cheap (or FREE) Wood Mulch For Your Garden
- Stopping BERMUDA GRASS From Your Plantings!
- How To Keep Birds Off Your Porch Railings
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