Garden Blog

Avatar of stone


Too good to be true

07/18/2012 in gardening

Freebies for the garden

At the risk of offending your local garden supply center, I’m going to let you in on a secret…
When we’re getting the mulch and compost free, there’s some extra money for those cool new cultivars.

wood-chip pile

A pile of mulch is a good thing to have

Woodchips block sunlight from germinating those weed seeds…
Mulch also prevents the sun from burning the organic material out of the soil, and helps the soil to retain moisture and tilth.
Eventually the wood chips add nutrients back to the soil, and build humus.

Purchasing wood chips by the bag, or even by the truckload can run into some real money, and cause us to try to get by without.

This isn’t necessary.

As the video demonstrates, all that is really needed is a place for the pile, and we can get the chips delivered for almost nothing.

if the video doesn’t play, visit this link:

There are a number of links to providers of free woodchips/mulch in the Atlanta area on the above link, it’s probably worth visiting just for those.

Relevant text of video:

Mary Jo Paris is spending a lot of time making her landscaping look beautiful. But she’s not spending a lot of money. She gets a huge pile of wood chips, absolutely free.

“There were a couple of trees being taken down in the neighborhood and the tree removal service came by and they were canvassing for places to be able to dump it. I happened to be home so I said sure; I’d love to have some mulch. It helps them not have to pay to remove it and I get some free mulch,” said Mary Jo Paris.

Paris estimates that she’s saved hundreds of dollars. And you can do the same thing. An internet search shows several companies in metro Atlanta offer free wood chips.

But be prepared to wait until a tree service company is working in your area. And you’ll need to have a lot of room for a whole truck load of wood chips. You’ll need to have somewhere to keep it or have lots of friends who want to share. Paris also suggests sharing another popular mulch material: pine straw. Just ask neighbors who have more than they need.

Also visit this link for additional mulch resources in middle Georgia:

While the video suggests searching “wood-chips”, “free mulch”, you shouldn’t stop there, I’ve gotten very good results by searching “tree service”, and found people that hadn’t yet made the connection that their chips were a desirable commodity.

Besides using the internet, I’ve followed the woodchip trucks around until they stopped…
Have a favorite method for getting these great freebies? tell us!

Soil amending

big pile of manure
Manure, compost, barn scrapings or whatever you want to call it… can also be had inexpensively, with just a bit of research.

Searching “stables” and “horses boarded” can produce valuable leads. Adding the name of your town provides more focused results.

I’ve found that talking to people at one stable often produces leads to several other stables. Horse people know each other, through visits to the vet, and going to barrel races and rodeos, bridal trails.

While I usually end up loading the manure myself, some stables have a loader and may offer to load your truck.

I haven’t ever found anyone to deliver the poop inexpensively, so… you’re gonna need a pick-em-up truck.


Cindy asked: Do the chips need to “season” before you put them on the beds? I know you have to let sawdust age, right?

Donna said: WAIT to use the wood chips. Freshly cut and deposited on the garden, the decomposition of the chips draws much nitrogen from the soil in processing the chips.

My experience is that I can use wood chips as a mulch as soon as they are delivered,

Wood chips are great in the perennial bed, in tree islands, and around the shrub border.

Wood chips are less than ideal on the vegetable garden. Hay is much better in the vegetable garden… but woodchips can be used for weed suppression and moisture retention when it’s the chips or nothing… I’d avoid turning them under for a year or two.

In Georgia, sawdust is often added to the ‘barn-scrapings’, to absorb urine, and to help contain the smell.

The sawdust takes a while to break down and can absorb nitrogen away from the garden plants if used fresh. Fresh horse manure is better used as a mulch…

I discuss the importance of adding soil amendments to the garden in some detail on my soil page.


Do you have a favorite gardening freebie? I’d love to hear about it!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

8 responses to Too good to be true

  1. I enjoyed watching the video you posted. Another idea, if you live in a City that collects landscape debris separate from household trash, is to call your City for free compost.

  2. Donna said on 07/20/2012

    A few suggestions. WAIT to use the wood chips. Freshly cut and deposited on the garden, the decomposition of the chips draws much nitrogen from the soil in processing the chips. That or add nitrogen so the plants have enough. You can get ‘poop’ like you said from horse farms. I had horses and we gave the manure to the mushroom farms and they returned it as beautiful black compost. Win win. And.. if you have a sewage treatment facility, you can get clean treated sewage compost to use on ornamental gardens. This stuff is amazing, but not to be used on vegetable gardens.

    • stone said on 07/20/2012

      This concern over the chips absorbing nutrients away from the plants is a commonly held belief.
      In the video, the people were spreading the mulch immediately.
      I’ve always done so without problems, myself.

      I discuss the nutrient depletion issue on facebook… Be sure to click the “see more” link.

      The nitrogen deficiency concern is valid, and fresh horse manure can be problematic to use, due to the sawdust from the stable scrapings needing time to break down, and fresh horse poop can turn the plants yellow, due to the nitrogen being absorbed from the surrounding soil! This seems counter-intuitive… Most people are concerned about fresh manure burning the plants, and the reverse actually happens to be true!

      I’ve purchased that mushroom compost, and I found that the stuff around here had too much carbon in it… It seemed to actually slow down the growth of the plants… extra nitrogen would be required… to till the mushroom compost into the garden soil, but it makes beautiful mulch!!!

      • Donna said on 07/21/2012

        Thanks. Will check out your link.

        • stone said on 07/23/2012

          I need to add this nutrient depletion discussion to the body of the main post, I totally appreciate your bringing it up.

          • Donna said on 07/25/2012

            I thought to ask you since you are a good and knowledgeable writer, are you a member of the Garden Writers Association? I was asked to join (not as a writer, but a photographer), and it sounds like a pretty worthwhile group, but do not know too many from the GWA. The ones that I do know of are from blogging.

          • stone said on 07/25/2012

            I’ve seen the GWA badges on people’s blogs… Nope, not a member.
            It seems like a bit of a compliment that you were invited to join…
            You sell some of the photos that you take, yes?
            I haven’t figured a way into publication… Still learning my chops…

  3. Tim said on 01/18/2013

    I enjoyed your posts about the war on vegetables. We don’t have that problem here in Kingman, KS. My front yard is bermuda grass, not turf, but I know many people who have vegetable gardens and one who’s entire front lawn is perennials, annuals, and shrubs. Maybe it helps that Kingman is a farming community. Anyway, I hope that people win the right to plant vegetables in their yards. It seems odd to me that they are not allowed to do so.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>