Free Ways to Mulch a Vegetable Garden

Where to Find Free Mulch for the Vegetable Garden

Mulching a vegetable garden means to cover a garden bed with a layer of natural (usually plant) material. Mulch helps to keep down the weeds, slows down the evaporation of water from the soil, and protects a plant's roots from erosion or freezing temperatures.

Most people equate mulch with those expensive bags of bark chip that can be purchased from the garden center. While this type of mulch is pretty to look at, it's totally unnecessary for gardeners on a budget. If you are looking for free ways to mulch a vegetable garden, these tips can save you money.

Grass clippings & newspaper. If you read the daily paper and mow the lawns on weekends, then you've got a steady supply of free mulch. Newspaper and grass clippings makes for a fantastic weed barrier and as it breaks down, will improve the texture of the garden soil as well. To mulch with grass and newspaper, you'll need at least a weeks worth of papers (no colored inks or ads) and the clippings from your lawn or that of a neighbor's. Do NOT use clippings that have been treated with pesticides or herbicides.

1. Place several layers of newspaper in the vegetable garden. Make sure that the paper does not touch the stem of the vegetables.
2. Sprinkle grass clippings on top of the newspaper to a depth of two or three inches.
3. Repeat every 3-4 weeks as the newspaper breaks down.

Used carpeting. Hit the for this fantastic resource. Used carpet keeps out the weeds while letting in water to the roots and is durable enough to last through several seasons. To use carpet as free mulch, merely cut the carpet into strips and place around your vegetable plants and in the furrows.

Animal bedding. With chickens and rabbits on our homestead farm, we have an endless supply of free sawdust and straw which makes terrific mulch while adding nutrition rich animal manure to the garden as well. If you don't have pets of your own, ask a pet-loving neighbor if you can have his discarded sawdust or straw. (Do NOT use kitty litter!)

Sheets of Cardboard. If you don't mind a little dumpster diving, free cardboard is another great way to mulch a vegetable garden. Cardboard strips can be used around the base of the vegetable plants and down the furrows as well. To camouflage the cardboard, a sprinkling of green grass will do the trick.

Mulch is an important step in boosting the health and production of your vegetable garden. You'll quickly discover that tapping into these free resources for mulch will boost your vegetable yield while saving both money and time.