Cheap and Free Sources of Landscaping Materials

by A.J. McKnight

Landscaping does not need to be expensive to look pleasing. Your desired result might require an investment in time and creativity, but certainly not in cash.

If your home’s landscape has become less than lovely, you might be tempted to make a beeline for the nearest nursery for new materials. And while their choices of colored mulch, decorative walkway stones and fancy planter borders can win you most-beautiful-yard-on-the-block bragging rights, their high prices can leave you with a less than lovely dent in your budget.

So before hitting up the garden center at your favorite big-box store, try these cheap and free sources of landscaping materials to spruce up your yard. It might take bit of legwork to collect the materials, but you’ll enjoy your beautifully landscaped lawn and yard all the more knowing how much money you saved.

Free and Cheap Sources for Plants

  • Keep an eye on freecycle and local Facebook swap groups for anyone giving away free plants.
  • Nurseries and big box stores with garden centers often deeply discount plants that no longer look pretty enough to sell at full price. These plants might initially need some regular TLC to restore, but you often can find plants discounted by as much as 75%.
  • Buy small plants in bulk. At nurseries and garden centers, you’ll find that the larger, mature (and often much more beautiful) plants cost considerably more than their newly sprouted counterparts. You will have to wait for your tiny plants to grow, but you will end up with far more plants for far fewer dollars.
  • Contact local landscaping companies to find out what they do with the plants they remove from large landscape projects. Sometimes they’ll let you carry their “rejects” away for free from their job sites.

Free and Cheap Sources for Walkway Materials

  • Contact concrete contractors and tell them you are interested in the broken remains of concrete sidewalks or driveways they remove. They will often be more than happy to oblige since it can save them a removal.
  • Check with your local cement company. If they have too much cement for a job, they have to get rid of the excess somewhere. In some areas, you can take in stepping stone forms and the cement company will fill your forms for free. When they have dried, you can go back and pick them up.
  • Old railroad ties can make a unique walkway. If your area has local railroad offices, see if they give away discarded crossties.
  • Do you have a gravel pit in your area?  Find out what they would charge for a load of small rocks for your footpath. Typically they are very cheap. In some areas you can get a pickup load for $2.50 – $5.00.

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Cheap and Free Planter Borders

  • Those discarded chunks of concrete mentioned above make for a striking landscape border. As do those small quarry rocks that were recommended for a footpath.
  • Cut logs can also provide a lovely border. You can sometimes obtain logs for free from arborists, landscape companies, or by looking around in your neighborhood. Anyone who has recently cut down a tree would love to get rid of the logs, usually already cut into three foot lengths.
  • The cheapest landscape border is no border at all. Simply keep the grass edge where the lawn meets the planter neatly edged.
  • If brick is a widely used material for housing in your area, you might be able to find a supplier or contractor more than happy to give you broken discards for creating a border.

Cheap and Free Mulch

  • Find out if your city or county has a free mulch or compost site.
  • Check with local tree trimming companies to see if they give away the wood chips created from grinding down the limbs and trees they remove. You might find they will deliver wood chips free of charge just to get rid of them.
  • Does your lawn mower have a bag to catch grass clippings? Grass clippings make great mulch. You just need to let them dry out before dumping them into planters so heat from the fresh clippings do not kill your plants.
  • Use newspaper beneath your mulch instead of landscape cloth for weed prevention.

If you utilize these cheap and free sources for landscaping materials, you’ll see that landscaping does not need to be expensive to look pleasing. Your desired result might require an investment in time and creativity, but certainly not in cash.

Reviewed April 2019

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