Mulch is a must for healthy gardens and plants. The primary benefit of mulch is the way it retains moisture, which multiplies the effects of watering and rainfall. Mulches help prevent weeds, protect your plants from winter and weed eaters, and erosion. Natural mulches even break down over time, contributing to the health of your soil. All it takes is a 2 to 4-inch layer of mulch for your garden, flower beds, and around your plants. While gardeners know the importance of adding mulch, there’s still an important question: What’s the best way to get mulch? How to make your own mulch? You can go to the store and spend plenty of money on organic or inorganic mulch that will get the job done. But with a little DIY recycling, there are ways to take care of both your yard and your pocketbook.
A Warning About Free Mulch
Many cities offer free mulch to residents through public programs. They allow people to drop off trees and brush, and workers will feed the material through a wood chipper. The resulting mulch is free to take. This sounds like the perfect deal, but take a moment to consider what you might be getting into.
There’s a reason that those trees and other plants were cut down or removed. It might not matter why the previous owners needed to do away with those plants, but it might be a major problem for you, your garden, and maybe even your home.
Once a tree has passed through a wood chipper and the wood chips mixed with those from all over the city, there’s no easy way to tell if the mulch you’re getting is healthy. Trees can get sick just like people, and the microscopic organism that caused the illness can survive for a year or more. City mulch might carry toxic fertilizer, harmful chemicals, and even termites.
We understand that people use all kinds of methods to care for their yards, and that’s fine. But not knowing what you’re putting on your gardens and flower beds is a big problem. Everyone needs to decide for themselves, but we recommend avoiding free city mulch.
How to Make Your Own Mulch
If you have more than a couple of yards of ground to cover, you can save money by making your own mulch. It’s a great way to give a second life to trees and plants on your own property. If you don’t have anything you need to cut down, you can check with your neighbors, family, and friends. There’s probably someone who can contribute.
If you want to use leaves for mulch, you can shred them with a lawnmower almost as easily as renting a machine. Just rake the leaves into piles and mow over them several times. Having a grass catcher bag on your mower can make this part more convenient. Once the leaf bits are small enough, you can rake them into place.
If you want to make mulch from trees or branches, you can rent a wood chipper from the hardware store. You generally pay for part of the day or a full day, and you’ll save the most money if you can get the job done in a few hours. Remember, you just have to safely send all the wood through the wood chipper before you return the machine. You don’t have to hold onto it through the whole job.
Make sure you follow all safety precautions while using the wood chipper. It’s very important to know what size limbs it can handle, or you can hurt yourself or damage the machine. Take the time to read the instructions and ask the rental service what you need to do to be successful.
Making the Most of Your Mulch
To get the best results, remove any old mulch from the area. If you compost, you can add the old much. You’ll also want to remove any weeds, or they’ll benefit from all your hard work. Taking the time to properly prepare the area will make a huge difference.
You want to place your mulch in a layer 2 to 4 inches thick. You want to cover the ground of your flower beds and gardens, but don’t cover up the crown or above ground section of your plants and leave some space around the bases of trees to keep them healthy. You’ll want to use a rake to spread your mulch around and level everything out. One your mulch is installed, water it when you water the rest of your lawn!
Conquer That Garden!
Whether you’re a green thumb or not, your plants will love mulch! We hope this guide has helped you decide the easiest way to get the mulch you need to take your yard to the next level. If you are a fellow resident of Austin, stop by our Austin recycling center and tell us about your home mulch making. Best of luck in your efforts, we know they’ll pay off!