Mulching very large areas


I’m trying to help a coworker plan a large mixed border, with trees, shrubs, and perennials. The issue is the sheer size of this (.25 acres) would be thousands of dollars in mulch. And without mulch, the thing will be covered in weeds in about a month. Any ideas?


Agreed- that would take a lot of mulch.

I will point out that mulch/compost/soil etc. are all a lot cheaper if you can buy bulk, and cheaper still if you can do your own hauling, FWIW.


Look into whether or not your community has a mulch pile for residents (local tree trimming companies in my area dump their chipped trimmings there).


I’ve covered about a third of my eighth of an acre a few storage bins at a time over the past couple months…all for free…


You’re looking at a little over a full tractor trailer load of mulch…see if you can get a quote on that from a wholesaler. Then, half a dozen guys and 3 to 6 wheelbarrows for a long hot day or two. $2500 would be a low end figure I would imagine.

Or, try cheap or free chips form a tree trimming company. The labor will still be expensive either way.


Use, free 20 yards ate a time


concur. I found a construction company dropping trees for a new house down the street from my orchard. I asked them to drop everything in the orchard. It cost me nothing and the chips were very large (it took a long time to degrade some of them). the area I covered was in fact 0.25 acres.


Are there issues with “nitrogen robbing” using wood chips as is often stated?


no, as long as you don’t till it in. i cover 1/3rd. a acre with wood chips 3in. thick every spring. a local arborist dumps the chips he gets here when i ask for some. used to be free but then i had to hound him to come, so i offered him $50 a load. i use my tractor dump to make piles in my yard then shovel / rake it out. takes me about 3 hrs.


Sounds to me like it would take three hours just to shovel it into the tractor dump so you can take it to a different part of the yard.


Holy sh&!, where has this been all my life?


none. on the surface, they rob atmospheric nitrogen, of which we have plenty. Then it percolates down into the soil a year or three later.


nope. i just scoop it up with the dump and put it where its needed. obviously the last couple scoops need to be manually shoveled but thats it. spreading is quick with some shoveling and a rake. trust me if it was real work, i wouldn’t do it. plus it saves so much time in weeding, watering and fertilizing. after about 3 yrs. the old mulch is now feeding your trees/ plants. looks nice too. i have whole lines mulched instead of just around each tree. mowing is just up and down in between rows. a little herbicide along the edges occasionally, keeps the weeds out of the mulch.


I used chipdrop last year and covered my entire back and frontyards for free. The site has a FAQ page which should answer many of your questions on nitrogen binding, etc (of course it is biased but you can check out the sources to read more). The only concern is you need to take however big the dump is, which should be fine given your big area. I couldn’t even use half of it but it flew off quickly after I listed the rest in Craiglist/FB.


I’m on their list now for 3 yrs. but haven’t got any from them. i think I’m too remote. the local arborist brings me a load when i want. i also have access to coarse sawdust from a firewood business for free.


In addition to Chipdrop try Craigslist. I just tried it and got this: “Free wood chips.” “I can deliver tomorrow a load of clean wood chips to anyone near Smithtown or within a few miles of - 15 yards minimum call or tex”


Call your local tree services. There’s one a couple of miles from me that seems to find it convenient to dump at the end of the day. If I let them, I think they’d cover an acre or two, 6 feet deep, each year. I have them dump into a row in the middle of my orchard, combine it with manure that I get from a horse farm, let it sit fir a year, then spread. It’s been working great. Below, you can see the seasoned chips in front of a row of new chips.

As for Nitrogen… my soil is crazy sandy. I struggled to grow anything in a section of my orchard… got buckwheat to 6” height. Then I spread a layer of chips, disked it in, and saw a marked improvement. Any loss of nitrogen was paid in full by an increase in moisture retention.

If I remember correctly, N binding is an issue within a few millimeters of a chip, but only fir a season or so. After that, the added biology in the soil will be a net plus.

I’d recommend you find someone with a small tractor with a bucket instead of doing the work by hand.


Only if you mix them with the soil. Not on top - in this case the nitrogen consumption is minimal.