Photo: Wayne McLaurin If the prospect of free mulch interests you, look no farther than your own backyard.Grass clippings, leaves and pine needles are an excellent source of mulch. A generous2- to 3-inch layer of these organic materials can cut your watering needs by as much as 50percent. It can trim weed growth drastically, too.Research shows that when the air is 100 degrees, a 3-inch layer of mulch can cool thesoil by as much as 25 degrees.Healthy Root GrowthThis promotes healthy root growth, which allows for a more efficient uptake of water.The same layer of mulch will also help protect your plants from freeze damage in thewinter.As you place mulch around your planting beds, take care to pull it slightly away frommain stems. Don’t just pile it on. Organic mulch degrades over time, adding nutrients tothe soil. So you’ll need to replenish your layer from time to time to maintain itsthickness.By using your own free mulch, you’ll improve your soil at no cost. You’ll also reducethe amount of waste that ends up in area landfills. This is truly a win-win situation. The grass clippings, leaves and pine needles in your back yard are an excellent source of free mulch.