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How to Get Free Wood Chips for Mulch

Paying for mulch is an expense I don’t like to have. Especially since the mulch seems to disappear every year and I have to add more each Spring. If you want to save money in your garden, here are my best ways for how to get free wood chips to use as mulch.

So, if you have been wondering where to get wood chips for free near you, check out all of these options before you pay for bags of mulch or a wood chip delivery.

Free Wood Chips from a Tree Service

This is my favorite way to get free wood chips, and the one that I have used the most.

Almost all tree removal services don’t mind delivering wood chips to your home for free! They need to pay to dispose of the chipped trees, so giving the chipped wood to you saves them money from disposal fees.

Contact an arborist or tree service and ask them if they give away their wood chips. If they are cutting down trees in your area, they will probably stop by your home and deliver a dump truck full of mulch in your yard for free. If you see a tree being cut down in your neighborhood or in the vicinity of where you live, ask the workers if they could deliver the shredded trees to your home.

If no tree work is being done around you at the current moment, you might need to be put on a list until they are servicing your area. If you can wait a few days or weeks, then this is ideal for you.

Keep in mind, some trees are being removed because they are diseased. Obviously this isn’t great for using in your gardens. You might want to ask the tree service (before they arrive at your home) why the trees are being removed. Is it because they are diseased, or simply because they needed trimming or removal?

I got a huge pile of wood chips when my neighbor decided to remove a tree for safety reasons. I knew that the tree was healthy and not concerned about the wood chips. Since the tree company was next door, they didn’t mind driving to my driveway to unload the pile of wood.

  • If Black Walnut trees were cut down, do NOT use the wood chips. Those trees would kill your garden.
  • Keep in mind they will probably deliver their entire dump truck to your home, not just a few buckets. You need to be prepared for A LOT of mulch, unless you discuss the amount with them beforehand!

City or County Mulch

Many cities or counties trim and cut down trees as part of their maintenance. The city or county might have a place that they dump the wood chips for the community to come get for free. You will need to contact your city or county government and find out. They will probably not drop off at a home with delivery, but you could always ask.

Where I live, the city has a Facebook page and promotes the free pick-up dates on Facebook. (They also do composted leaf mulch days, too, with free pickup.)

Electric Company / Utilities / Contractors

Yet another way to easily get free wood chips for the garden is with utility companies. Power companies are constantly trimming back tree branches so that they don’t break the power lines. Many times contractors are hired by the utility companies to do the work for them. Call your power and phone utility companies and ask if they have any program for giving away the wood chips, or ask the contractors when you see them working in your area.

Wood Workers and Craftspeople

A lot of wood workers and craftsmen and women have shavings from planing wood and turning the wood. These wood shavings and chips are great to use as mulch as long as the wood is NOT PRESSURE TREATED! You do not want to use pressure treated wood because it can contain chemicals that could damage or kill your plants.

Ideally, you want someone that is using all natural wood trunks and planes of wood. I recently saw someone on the yard sale Facebook page for my city giving away bags of cedar wood chips for $3 each. They were huge bags!

Sawdust could be used, too. It definitely would fly away more in the wind and isn’t as helpful for preventing weeds. However, it could be a nice addition to your soil.

Cutting Down a Tree

If you need to cut down a tree on your property, be sure to reuse it as wood mulch. If you are hiring someone to cut it down, ask them if they will have a shredder to make wood chips on site. If not, ask a neighbor if they have a wood chipper you can borrow. You might be able to rent a wood chipper, too.

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Other Ways to Get Free or Cheap Mulch

Here are some more ways to get free mulch or inexpensive mulch to use in your garden:

  • Look in the clearance aisle at garden centers and home improvement stores for opened bags of mulch. These often sell for much less than the original price because some of the mulch is missing.
  • Use shredded newspaper underneath mulch to make the wood chips go further. You only want to shred the newsprint paper, not the ads and circulars that are brightly colored and almost feel like they have a plastic finish. The newspaper will decompose into your soil over the season, but you won’t have to use as much mulch to prevent weeds. See these helpful tips for using newspaper to prevent weeds.
  • Use cardboard underneath your mulch in places you don’t want plants to grow. It will naturally decompose, too, but won’t let in any sunlight so that weeds and other plants won’t grow.
  • Paper shreds will work just like newspaper or cardboard. Put them underneath a thin layer of mulch to make your mulch stretch further. However, you want paper without a lot of fancy finishes or chemicals applied to it and that is getting harder to find these days.
  • Alway be prepared to receive your blessings of free wood chips! Have a tarp, old shower curtain, bucket or pail in your vehicle to gather wood chips if you see them available.
  • My city gives away leaf compost that they have collected from sweeping city streets from leaves and then composting for a year. This compost is often thick enough to use as mulch. Contact your city or county government to see if they do the same thing.
  • Gather small leaves to use as mulch. I used to do this in Florida when the Live Oak trees shed their tiny leaves. I scooped up piles of them in the road and put in the garden beds to use as mulch and they worked great! Shredding leaves to use as mulch also works, too.

If you like these ideas for how to get free mulch, check out our tutorial on how to save cosmos seeds from your flowers for free seeds next year!