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?

How to 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.

Organic Mulch

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!

Inorganic Mulch

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!

Organic free mulch materials - Top Left: Dead leaves | Top Right: Nut shells | Bottom Right: Corn Husks | Bottom Left: Pine cones and needles

These are a few of my favourite organic mulch materials – Top Left: Dead leaves | Top Right: Nut shells | Bottom Right: Corn Husks | Bottom Left: Pine cones and needles


How to Mulch Your Garden for Free

“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” ― Arthur Ashe

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
How to mulch your garden for free: Pile of pruned branches and leaves for mulch from our garden

A pile of pruned branches and leaves I used as mulch for our garden

Prunings from hedges and garden maintenance.

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June Garden Tips

With weather challenges, food shortages, rising prices for fresh produce, escalating living costs and food security concerns, it makes sense to grow your own groceries. Even just a few basic homegrown vegetables and herbs can make a positive impact on your budget. I’ve got lots of creative, practical and super easy money-saving ideas to help you in my latest article.

10 Smart Tips to Garden on a Budget

Saving seeds, simple propagation skills, growing food from kitchen scraps, making healthy soil, growing mulch plants and DIY fertilisers are a few of the cost-effective tips in this article. Dig in with quick how-to video lessons.




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Budget-Friendly Ways to Grow Food from your Kitchen

Are your grocery bills costing you more? You’re not alone. Global food prices are on the rise as producers continue facing ingredient and labour shortages, as well as increased transport and fuel costs. Consumers are paying the price. With no relief in sight, it’s time to get our kitchen gardens producing. I share budget-friendly ideas to help you in this Garden Culture Magazine article.

 


Lettuce Sow!

At $10+ a lettuce in many shops, it’s essential to grow your own. Lettuce is one of the easiest and fastest foods to grow in a pot or garden bed. From seed to feed in just a few weeks! Lettuce seeds need light to germinate which makes sense because the dried flowers with tiny seedheads are blown by the wind with little parachutes! They easily self-sow where they land on the surface. I often dig them out of the grass with a fork from the kitchen and gently transplant them. Lettuce will gift you so many free seeds you can save and keep growing. Learn how in my short video. I’d really appreciate a Like and Share if you find the tips helpful.


NEW Sustainable Gardening Guides

Two of the best ways to save money in your garden are to:

  1. Save your own seeds and create a home seed bank. You won’t have to buy seeds year after year.
  2. Learn how to propagate new plants. There are many techniques to save you from getting your purse out at the nursery!

Both these strategies involve learning new skills that will be invaluable to you. Not only to save money and be self-reliant but potentially to earn an income by selling new plants and seeds. Food for thought!

To help you get started, I now have two new laminated 8-page gardening guides on Seed Collecting and Saving and Plant Propagating.

For a 10% Discount, enter Coupon Code: 10%OFF during checkout and click Apply. Enjoy!

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10 Smart Tips to Garden on a Budget

With weather challenges, food security concerns and shortages plus escalating prices for fresh produce and living costs, it makes sense to grow your own groceries and garden on a budget. Even just a few basic homegrown vegetables and herbs can make a positive impact on your budget and more importantly, your health.

10 Smart Tips to Garden on a Budget - money saving ideas to grow food

These tips will help you:

  • Save money.
  • Live more sustainably.
  • Eat healthier.
  • Be more self-reliant.
  • Improve your food security.

So let’s dig in!

How to Garden on a Budget

1. Sow Seeds vs Seedlings

Seeds save you money, whereas seedlings save you time. You just need to be organised to plan ahead. That’s because seeds take time to germinate and grow big enough to transplant. However, you can grow way more plants from one packet of seeds than a punnet of seedlings!

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