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Garden On The Cheap: Where To Get Free Trees And Mulch

By Patty Wetli | April 19, 2017 9:19am
 Get free oak saplings from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.
Get free oak saplings from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.
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LINCOLN SQUARE — Going green doesn't have to cost a ton of greenbacks — or anything at all.

Mulch, which helps prevent weeds and retains water in planting beds, is available for free year-round at these sites:

• 4101 North Oak Park Avenue (Chicago Read Center)

• Grand and Rockwell  (South of Grand Avenue, behind of the salt pile, along the south fence)

• 52nd  and Oakley (near the Salt Dome)

• 2342 South Ashland Avenue (North West corner of property)

• 900 East 103rd Street (North East corner of property)

A couple of caveats:

• The sites are only open 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

• You'll need to bring your own shovel and containers to haul the mulch.

With the city's trees decimated by the Emerald Ash Borer, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District launched “Restore the Canopy, Plant a Tree” to replace Chicago's depleted tree population.

Trees, according to the MWRD, can help prevent flooding by absorbing 2,800 gallons of rainfall per year, and also reduce pollution and the effect of urban heat islands.

MWRD is offering free 18-inch oak saplings, either individually or in bulk, every Wednesday, 9 a.m. to noon, at water reclamation plants across Cook County, including the Calumet plant at 400 E. 130th St., beginning May 5.

Residents of the 40th Ward can pick up a free MWRD tree closer to home Saturday as part of the city's Clean and Green Day of Service. Planting and care instructions will be provided.

Swing by the ward yard at 5333 N. Western Ave., 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. to claim an oak sapling — limit two per household. Note, the trees can't be planted in the parkway, only on private property.  

Learn how to maximize a small gardening budget at "How to Create a Great Backyard (For Not A Lotta Dough)," 6-7 p.m. Wednesday at Sulzer Regional Library, 4455 N. Lincoln Ave.

Amanda Thompson, author of "Kiss My Aster," will provide advice and inspiration during the one-hour session.