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Smart Buying

Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

You might not have to spend a cent to make your yard look great.

After a long, harsh winter, your garden might be in desperate need of some TLC. If you received a tax refund, you might want to put that money to use sprucing up your yard to improve your home’s curb appeal. But don’t despair if you don’t have extra cash to improve your lawn and garden. There are several freebies that can help you get the green space around your home looking great.

 

Free trees. Some local governments give away trees (typically seedlings) as part of Arbor Day celebrations. National Arbor Day is the last Friday in April, but many states observe it on different days. Check your local government’s Web site to find out if it is giving away trees as part of an Arbor Day celebration. And some cities offer free trees as part of other events. For example, West Sacramento, Cal., gives residents up to two free 15-gallon trees a year if they attend a workshop on tree planting and care.

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Utility companies also offer customers free trees throughout the year to help reduce energy use through strategic planting, so check with yours to see if it offers such a program.

You can get ten free trees when you join the Arbor Day Foundation. Membership is $10, so the trees technically aren’t free -- but it’s a small amount to pay for so many trees. Plus, your membership entitles you to a 33% discount on trees when you buy online from the foundation.

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Free mulch. Many cities, counties and utility companies offer residents free mulch made from recycled leaves or wood from tree trimmings and tree removals if you pick it up. Some actually deliver the mulch for free.

Free seeds. The National Gardening Association has a seed swap forum that allows people to find seeds they want or share extra seeds with others. Fill out an online swap form to specify the seeds you want, then the association will contact you when someone can provide those seeds. Ideally, it should be a two-way exchange, but you don’t have to have seeds to swap in order to receive some.

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Free fertilizer. Americans spend $5.25 billion on fertilizers for their lawns, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Yet, you can get fertilizer for free by composting leaves, grass clippings, vegetable scraps and other organic waste. See the Eartheasy.com guide to composting to learn more.

Free gardening advice. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on gardening guides when you can get information for free from your local cooperative extension office. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has an interactive map that can help you find the office closest to you.

Free tools. Some cities have tool lending libraries that let residents borrow a variety of tools -- including garden tools -- for free. Check this list to see if there’s one near you, but note that some of these libraries require a membership fee. Or you can check Freecylce.org -- a nonprofit network of people offering items they no longer want for free -- to see if anyone in your community is giving away garden tools.

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