Saving Money and Time: Cheap Mulch for Easier Gardening

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by Robin

You can take any flower bed from ho hum to fabulous with mulch.  Until I learned this simple step I was wasting a lot of time and water to make my flowers happy (i.e. still alive) and the beds attractive (i.e. not completely full of weeds).  

But, ordering a truckload of mulch can be a tough on a frugal family.  We have a large yard and I have a penchant for planning and adding new flower beds.  That calls for a lot of mulch.  When we last did the beds, two years ago, we used 10 yards of mulch.  10 yards!  (We were blessed with the truckload as a generous surprise thanks-you gift from my dad.  I wonder if the truck driver had ever seen anyone cry tears of joy for a delivery before?  I seriously wept.  He looked at me like I was completely cracked.)

This year we are trying something new.  We've found an inexpensive source for mulch.

This year we ordered wood chips from our City.   We were able to have 4 yards delivered for about $90.  Could this be a potential source for you?

Here's some comparison shots:

Our Cheap City Mulch

Typical Garden Centre Cedar Mulch

  • The City mulch is not quite as pretty as a finer grade cedar mulch.  There are small sticks among the chips.  
  • It is also not likely cedar.  There won't be that beautiful smell and this mulch will probably decompose faster.
  • The City mulch is natural in colour.  If you are partial to the other colours of dyed mulches, you would be disappointed.

I am ok with all of these drawbacks, especially given the significant savings.  Four yards of mulch from a garden centre, with delivery, would cost at least three or four times that.

Some years I am tempted to skip the mulch, but then my smart side talks some sense into my cheap side.  I remind myself of the many...

Benefits of Mulch 

  1. Deters weed growth.  There is less chance of weed seeds germinating and any weeds that do invade, can be pulled out more easily.  This means less work all summer long.
  2. Mulch holds water.  That water can trickle down into the roots of the plants, instead of evaporating back to the air.  If you've found yourself watering your flower beds often, mulch may save you money on your water bill.
  3. Better soil.   Nutrients from decomposing organic mulches help build the soil and feed plants. 
  4. Controls erosion.  A layer of mulch absorbs the impact of rain and watering, keeping your soil where you want it. 
  5. Looks better.  Mulch can unify a landscape and give the area around your plants a weed free, just watered look. 
  6. Protects plants in winter.  Roots will stay warmer in winter under a thick blanket of mulch. With a thick coat of mulch in winter, plants have a better chance of survival. 
  7. Prevents soil from forming a crust.  A hard top layer of soil prevents nutrients from reaching your plants. 
  8. Protects young trees.  A 3' to 5' circle of much around a tree trunk is recommended for the first few years after a tree is planted. This will protect the young tree from mowers and trimmers and will also eliminate other plants from competing with the new tree for water and nutrients. 

The pile is patiently waiting on our driveway. 

Just once, I hope we remember to pump up the wheelbarrow tire BEFORE filling it this year.  Much easier to push when the tires not flatter than a flapjack.

Do you make the investment each year in mulch?  How do you save some money on it?





  1. I love the free wood chip mulch from the city. We do not even have to pay a delivery free. It costs nothing. The only rub is that you cannot schedule a delivery (they deliver when they have a tree trimming crew in your general vicinity) and you do not get an exact amount. I would spend hundreds of dollars each year if I brought bagged mulch. Learning about this freebie was one of my best gardening discoveries ever!!


    1. Free mulch would be awesome, Cora! Even with the inconveniences. You've got it made where you are. Happy gardening and thanks for your comment! ~ Robin

  2. Another source is your local tree company. It is often able to supply 'aged'(not bright white anymore) mulch at a very reasonable cost.


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