There are many differing opinions on which mulch constitutes the best kind of mulching, how much to use, and whether to use it. We tend to favor using natural mulch of wood chips and leaves because we have a lot of both where we live in the woods.
First and foremost, you can often get mulch for free. Sure, it’s not the fancy mulch used in ornamental landscaping, but it’s perfectly adequate for gardens. In fact the “rough” mulch from your local tree trimmers is typically a better quality for garden mulching because it ‘s a blend of trees, leaves, sap and vitality from the trees, not some treated, color thick wood bark. So not only is it good enough for many yard and garden beds, but you can often get it for free or uber cheap, so who’s complaining?!
We have a tree trimmer whom we call on when we need a tree trimmed or cut down. We’re able to we get free mulch from him whenever we need it. But even if you don’t have a relationship yet with a tree trimmer, you can call your nearest local company and just ask them.
The best tree trimmers will be glad to drop a load of chips for you for free. You see, they trim trees all day, most every day, which means that they typically have loads of wood chips that need to be dumped at least several times a week. That’s a lot of wood chips, and many people with ornamental gardens don’t want the “organic mulch mix”… they prefer the pretty stuff.
Call your local tree trimmer for free mulch in exchange for a place to dump their load.
Okay, but what if you don’t have a tree trimmer company nearby? Chances are, if you live around trees or in the woods like you do… well, where there are trees there are tree trimmers. But… what if you can’t find a local guy to deliver for free… or maybe you’d just like to make your own by cleaning up your yard of limbs, leaves and debris and turning it to mulching.
We’ve talked about whether to invest in a mulcher, so here are some thoughts on that.
Is it Cheaper to Make Mulch or Buy it?
There are numerous options for making your own mulch cheaply. Rather than buying lots of mulch, you could buy a mulcher ONCE, and it can pay for itself within the first year in how much you save on buying mulch by the bagful or truckload full. IF you can’t find it for free. Or it may just be that you want a mulcher to help you turn yard debris into garden mulching.
Ways to Make Garden Mulching
Most riding mowers and push mowers have mulcher attachments these days. There’s even a leaf blower/vacuum/mulcher all in one by Black & Decker.
Buy Mulch or Make it?
If you don’t already own a mulcher or mulching attachment, here are some considerations:
Approximately how much for the mulcher you’re looking at versus approximately how much will you spend on mulch this year?
Lowe’s Home Improvement has a mulch calculator that should help you glean your costs.1)http://www.lowes.com/cd_Mulch+Calculator_693827138_
In spring we got a single axle dump truck load of wood chip mulch. That was before we figured out we should call our own tree trimmer to get it for free! That load was $93 for approximately 9 yards of mulch, so rounding it at $10 /yd (for simpler calculations), to cover around 2,700 square feet. This should last us until next season.
UPDATE: But it didn’t. We’ve since had two more loads of the free mulch delivered. SO… of we’d had to pay for mulching each time, that would be close to $300 spent on mulch in our first year of gardening this area. Naturally, each year we’re expecting to need increasingly less as we’ll just be adding for maintenance mode rather than full coverage.
If you mainly have grass and leaves, the smaller versions should suffice, or you can just use your mower attachments. If you have a lot of wood like we do being mostly in the woods, you’ll need a mid-to-high end model.
Either way, with small mulchers, you’ll be doing a lot of feeding to get enough mulch to cover a garden, especially in the first year.
PRO to owning a mulcher or wood chipper and doing it yourself is that it’s a nice way to keep a yard cleaned up while recycling that debris into productive garden mulch.
CON to doing it yourself, is that it’s a lot of work for a little mulch, AND, it’s a big machine that you’ll need to have a place to store out of the weather.
We could buy a best-selling mid-range mulcher for around $300, and that’s almost an even deal for the truckloads we needed if we’d paid for it. But remember, we needed more the first year, after that you can just add it as you go. So a low-end mulcher for around $100, might be anough and it would pretty much pay for itself in one truckload of savings.
Or, we could buy a mid-range wood chip/leaf mulcher for around $1,000.
Would it last 3-6 seasons? Not sure, but what is certain is that we’d use it for 10 times more mulching than when we have to buy it per load. With a ready supply of mulch by having a mulcher, all garden and landscaped areas and walkways will always look better, and not just the vegetable garden. Wood mulch on top of the soil (and not tilled in) is very good for the soil and helps to keep your beds warmer when it’s cold and cooler when it’s hot, with better moisture retention.
If you want more info on the concept and benefits of natural mulching, you may enjoy this Back to Eden documentary.2)https://gardensall.com/back-to-eden-documentary-on-natural-gardening/
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