My dh recently got a book for me called Eat More Dirt, & in it the author suggested calling tree services for free or cheap mulch instead of getting it through a mulch dealer. Wellll, so today I called a tree service & lo & behold they do deliver & give away chips! I am an avid mulcher & am thinking this is quite the windfall, but wanted to know if anyone thinks this might be any worse quality than what I’d get from a mulch seller. The guy said the chips he’ll have next week are mostly from a job trimming branches back from a street, so I don’t imagine there’s be much danger of pesticides, etc. Any thoughts on this?

Fresh chips, especially pine, fir, or cedar, can be detrimental to your plants. If you can pile them up and let them compost for at least 6 months, your plants will thank you. Your mulch seller is probably getting the chips from the same source as you are, or from the city waste dept. I’d go with your new find.

I live around the corner from a council property where the local tree fellers drop their chewed up trees. I have been collecting it for almost a year now – really hard work, it would be much simpler if I was forward enough to get them to dump it on my property! I have found it to be an absolute godsend! I am on a really low income and couldn’t afford to buy mulch in the quantities I need. And we are in the middle of the worst drought in 100 years, so mulch is needed if you want anything to survive!

You do need to be careful as apparently wood chippings use up a lot of nitrogen as they decompose and should also be aged a little before applying directly to your garden. However, I didn’t know this when I first started getting it, I grabbed every speck I could and laid it up to six inches deep all over the place. I had no bad effects from this at all. But I don’t have a vege garden as yet, it was only applied to shrubs, flowers and fruit trees. I now store it for a while, heap it up in a pile, wet it with some „seaweed soup” and cover it with an old piece of carpet. Lovely, abundant and cheap. I suppose there is always the possibility of pesticides as you probably won’t have any idea of where it comes from, it could be shrub trimmings and garden waste as well as trees.

Recently the media reported a certain off brand of mulch was diseased and being sold by one of the big chain stores. To be sure, you either must know your source thoroughly, like as well as you know yourself, or buy the big name brand stuff, which is most likely to be free of diseases, but not completely free of chemicals. No place on earth is free of chemicals at this point.

I would be very,very careful with mulch that your not sure of what it could contain. In the city where I live, they have a big recycling center. They give away free mulch by the truckfuls. The mulch is made from the tree limbs,etc that are picked up by the city trucks that people pile on the curbs. Several years ago, I used some in a flower bed next to my house. Out of this mulch, poison oak sprouted. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what it was at the time, and spent the next few weeks with the worse case I’ve ever had (still have the scars! =0) When I called the center to ask about the mulching process, the guy said they just chop all the stuff up and give it away, there’s no telling what could be in it. First and last time using „free” mulch.

Thanks for all the great input on this issue. I think what I’ll do is use the free chips around my trees & bushes as well as around the periphery of the veggie garden, & if I have leftovers I’ll „compost” them for a while as suggested. I plan to plant clover on my pathways through the veggie garden, so I shouldn’t need too much mulch in there this year anyway – just around the actual plants — & I can get some other mulch for that little bit. I love it that my clover cover crop seems to have crowded out the snake grass & wild crysanthemum (what a nightmare – not sure what the previous owners were thinking!!). I’m hoping I can eventually crowd out even more…