How to Mulch Your Garden for Free
The Magic of Mulch
Mulch has so many benefits and is a vital input for every healthy garden. Mulch plays many roles besides framing your plants and making your garden attractive. Mulches inhibit weed growth, minimise erosion and retain precious moisture just to name a few. But how do you mulch your garden for free?
It depends on the mulch you want. There are two types of mulch – organic or inorganic. Let’s take a quick look at them both with their pros and cons.
This mulch type is either a dead plant material you apply over the soil surface or a living species you grow to cover and protect it. Organic mulches are biodegradable and decompose over time – some fast; others over a period of years. This depends on the material and your climate. Here in the subtropics, organic mulches break down quite quickly with high moisture and humidity.
These types of organic mulches add value to your soil health and quality. They are a way of layering organic matter on top of the soil to build humus and encourage worms. Organic mulches like leaves, hay, shrub prunings and lawn clippings improve drainage and aeration. They also add nutrients and hold water; create habitat for soil microorganisms; improve fertility and soil structure. However, buying these types of mulches, especially in bulk can be costly. You also need to reapply them over time. This is one of the key reasons to learn how to mulch your garden for free!
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Inorganic mulches are non-living or made from synthetic materials like weed mat. They typically don’t decompose, are low-maintenance and long-lasting but are usually more expensive to purchase. However, they don’t need replacing over time as organic mulches do. Decorative inorganic mulches include pebbles, rocks and gravel. It’s worth considering the environmental impact and one-off cost of these inputs. Pebbles and rocks can help prevent erosion and can be suited to windy gardens. They don’t however, feed the soil in any way.
There is a place for both types of mulches in many gardens. You can go to your landscape yard, nursery or hardware to buy bags of mulch in small quantities or get it delivered in bulk.
However, if you want to save money, why not consider all the potential materials you could use as mulch from your garden or neighbourhood? Here are a few sustainable ways to source your mulch at no cost. Dig in!
How to Mulch Your Garden for Free
“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” ―
We all have access to different resources. You may have to think creatively about what materials you can source from your own garden, family and friends, neighbours or within your local community. Don’t give up! Even starting with one of these free mulch ideas can help save you money. Aim to be as sustainable as you can.
1. Reuse ‘Waste’ Plant Materials
Grasscycling Lawn Clippings.
There are several ways to use nitrogen-rich, fresh green lawn clippings or when they are carbon-rich, brown, dry and aged.
- Firstly, if you have a catcher on your lawnmower, dry the grass clippings out in the sun to prevent them from clumping. Sprinkle lightly around pots or garden beds as mulch.
- Avoid applying a thick layer of grass clippings all in one spot as they can form a mat. This can prevent moisture from getting through to the soil.
- Instead of using a catcher, allow the clippings to self-mulch on the lawn as you mow. This prevents weeds, adds moisture and feeds the soil and thatch with nutrients. Healthier weed-free lawn too.
- Lastly, add clippings to your compost when fresh as a nitrogen (green) ingredient. Or dry out and use as a carbon (brown) input in the composting process. Compost can also be used as a feeding mulch under a more durable layer like bark chip.