Mulch is not just a decorative way of trimming out a flower or shrub bed. Mulch reduces ground water evaporation, keeps down the weeds, shades plant roots, and improves soil texture too. While you can buy ready made mulch from your local garden center, you can also make your own mulch at home using things you already have. Here are four free mulch alternatives that works as well as store bought.
Newspaper and grass
This easy-to-make mulch is one of my favorites because it’s so simple. To make this free mulch, place five to six layers of black and white newspapers (no glossy colors!) on the ground around your plants and top with three or four inches of fresh grass clippings. Newspaper is totally safe to use since the inks in black and white papers are soy-based.
All that wonderful finished compost in your bins also makes a great mulch, especially in the vegetable garden. I sprinkle finished compost to a depth of 2 inches around veggie plants such as tomatoes and peppers to keep down the weeds while also providing them with extra nutrition. Finished compost works especially well in container gardeners.
Soiled animal bedding
If you’ve got chickens and rabbits like we do, you have a steady source of straw and wood chips or aspen shavings that can also be used as mulch. Because the straw isn’t particularly attractive, I use it to mulch my blackberry and raspberry beds along the alley where it isn’t quite so obvious. The wood pellets or aspen shavings are decorative enough to use around the flowers beds.
When we lost a spruce tree several years ago, we rented a wood chipper to chop up the pieces that were too small for firewood into mulch for the yard. We generated about 5 cubic yards of mulch which was more than enough to take care of our planting beds and the ones in our rentals. Cleaning up your own tree branches is a great way to save money while supplying you with free mulch for the yard as well.
More by this contributor:
How to compost without a bin
10 clever ways to cut vegetable gardening costs
Vegetables that are the best value to grow in your garden