Creating and maintaining a great looking yard isn’t as hard as it looks. I previously wrote about frugal lawn care tips. But in that post, I limited myself to talking about the grass. But a great yard needs more than just grass. It also needs areas that don’t have grass at all. I don’t mean a dead spot, but edging or similar area to off-set all that green. Whether it is a flower bed or a walkway, contrast keeps the eye moving about and saves it from getting lost in a sea of green. If you opt for a flower bed or other edging, you are going to need mulch.
The problem is that mulch is kind of expensive. A 2 cubic foot bag from your local hardware or lawn and garden store is going to run around $3-4. How much does that cover? At a depth of 3 inches, it covers 16 square feet of ground. To put that in perspective, a twin size mattress is just over 20 square feet.
It is cheaper to buy it in bulk, but not by much. Prices for bulk mulch run around $50 per cubic yard. A cubic yard is 27 cubic feet. That runs to about a third of the price of bagged mulch. So how much coverage does that cubic yard get you? At a depth of three inches, 108 square feet If you wanted a two foot border around the edge of the yard, that would get you about 50 linear feet. Depending on the size of your house, that may or may not cover the length of the house.
So what is a frugal homeowner who wants a nice lawn to do?
It’s simple. In most towns, you don’t have to pay for mulch!
Check out the recycling drop off center for your area. Chances are there is a giant mulch pile nearby. If not, try searching on your municipality’s website. The way this mulch generally works is that the city is going to have trees to trim. The trimmings are run through a wood chipper but they have to go somewhere. So they go to a mulch pile. It would be expensive and not very environmentally friendly to send it off to the dump, so they make it available to the public. In some areas, they even let residents drop off their trimmed tree branches.
There are generally limits, however. In Fort Collins, this free mulch is available for residential use by residents only. You are allowed to take one pickup-load (or equivilent) per week. If starting from scratch, it may take you a couple weekends to get it all done. I guess this is an example of how time is money, in the literal sense that you can save hundreds by spreading the chore out over a few weeks.
Of course, you do need something to haul it in. And mulch isn’t something you are going to want to pile up in the trunk of your car. But if you can’t borrow a pickup, you can rent one from Lowes or U-Haul for $20. If you can get 2 cubic yards in there, renting a truck costs a fifth of what buying the mulch would have.
Do you use mulch? What source do you get yours from?