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Find cheaper sources of wood chips for your garden.
Mulch for Less Moola
August 20, 2001 by Evelyn J. Hadden
Mulch can be pricey, especially if you are smothering a lawn. Here are tips for finding cheaper sources of wood chips for your garden.

Sources of Free Mulch

You may be able to get free wood chips from sources like these in your area.
  • Many public compost sites allow local residents to drop off yard waste and carry away wood chips at no charge. You don't need to bring in waste in order to take out mulch.

  • Local tree trimming services often maintain lists of people who want wood chips, and when they're trimming trees in your neighborhood, they'll drop the mulch in your driveway. You won't likely know when your mulch will arrive until you see it in your driveway, but the convenience of a delivery may be worth the uncertainty.

  • If your street has overhead power lines, the power company may come down the street every few years to trim roadside trees. They will likely be eager to dump the chipped wood nearby. The trick is figuring out when they will come and how to let them know in advance that you are interested in taking the mulch. It might be worth a phone call or a visit to their website. Or you could just flag them down; I have stopped and offered to take a load when I saw them on my street, and I got several truckloads of exquisite, fine-chipped mulch for my efforts. Best of all, they remembered me and knocked on my door four years later to offer me more!
  • Finding Less Costly Mulch

  • Buy in Bulk
    It costs less to buy mulch in quantity than to buy individual bags from a garden store. Landscape centers offer a variety of mulches in quantity, and some nurseries offer a limited selection as well.

  • If you have access to a truck, picking up your own mulch is a great bargain. If you don't, having it delivered may still be cost-effective. Delivery fees vary and may be influenced by your distance from the source.

  • Share the Load
    Delivery becomes less costly when you split a load of wood chips or gravel with friends or neighbors.

    If you buy anything large from a nursery or landscape supply store (rocks, lumber, or trees, for instance), mulch can often be delivered in the same load at no extra charge. If you have no plans to buy supplies, ask a neighbor with a project. That person might appreciate your help with the cost of delivering their retaining wall, and your mulch can hitch a ride in the same load.

    Place an ad in your neighborhood paper to find nearby people who want to split a load of mulch. Check with neighbors who may have extra mulch; they might be willing to give away or trade it.

  • Make Your Own
    One of your neighbors may have a wood chipper (also called a wood shredder or brush chipper) you can use, rent, or trade for. This could save you the hassle of disposing of tree trimmings by converting them to wood chip mulch. Or rent a chipper—again, split the cost with neighbors or friends who also may have trimmings. If you need more mulch than your own trimmings provide, neighbors who don't need mulch might be glad to have you dispose of their trimmings.

    Caution: Wood chippers are powerful machines that deserve significant care and respect. If you are unsure how to operate one safely, hiring a qualified operator along with the machine will probably be worth the extra cost.

  • Reach Out
    Try calling a local garden club, recycling center, or city council office to see if they can offer tips or resources for finding less costly mulch. Or check with the government agency responsible for pollution control or natural resources in your area.
  • How to use all those wood chips?

    smother your lawn

    mulch your young woodland

    convert your steeply sloping lawn to a Slope Garden

    make island beds around your lawn trees

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