My mom is an excellent gardener. Unfortunately, I did not inherit this part of her DNA. However, I continue to aspire to acquire and grow green things. I also find I have an easier time doing this in fall when the weather is cooler (i.e. so the Texas sun doesn't scorch anything I plant without giving it a fighting chance first). For my mom and other serious gardeners, however, fall is more than just a reprieve from summer’s heat—it’s the start of next year's fresh growth cycle. So fall is the perfect time to ferret out these fun freebies and cheapies to prepare for new growth ahead!

1. Mulch

Mulch protects roots and tender shoots from cold and the elements. Experts recommend waiting to lay down an extra protective layer of mulch until after the first cold snap (this prevents unwanted burrowing visitors from seeking its protection as well!).

  • Get mulch for free: Tree-trimming companies cart away loads of mulch (which is basically just chipped wood) you can get for free—ask your company or call around. You can also make your own by saving your leftover grass clippings, raked leaves, bark and twigs, and pine needles. Mix together and voila—you have free nutrient-rich mulch for your fall garden.

2. Seeds

Seeds are a must, of course, but the key with seeds is to plant at the right time. So you want to begin gathering the seeds you want to plant for spring as well as those you want to plant in fall (this, of course, will depend on where you live and how lengthy your fall season is).

  • Get seeds for free: The best way to get free seeds is to harvest your own seeds—and fall is a perfect time to do this. You can also send away for free seeds, and here are some resources to try.

Get free seeds:

3. Compost/fertilizer

Compost and organic fertilizer will enrich the soil all through the fall and winter, nourishing bulbs and snoring seeds until warming temperatures bring them to life once more. Add a final layer of compost and/or organic fertilizer in late fall before the first cold snap (when you will cover the whole garden over with protective mulching).

  • Get compost/fertilizer for free: This great KCL post explains how to do your own composting for free! And this great KCL post explains where to get more composting supplies for free from local businesses.

4. Protective materials

Twine, burlap, vinyl and other materials can guard your garden from extremities of wind, rain, sleet, hail and snow.

  • Get protective materials for free: If you are a saver, you probably already have twine, burlap, or other protective materials left over from last year's fall garden prep. If not, ask at local gardening centers—they will have plenty after unwrapping incoming perennials, trees, and bulbs.

Find freebies and cheapies with these 5 gardening loyalty clubs

Each of these retailers offers special discounts, coupons, deals, loyalty clubs and/or incentives to repeat customers.

1. Seeds Now

2. Burpee Seeds

  • Website: http://www.burpee.com
  • Email list: sign up and get a coupon for $10 off any $40 offer; get advance notice of specials and discounts
  • About: Everything from fruits to herbs, vegetables to perennials.

3. Johnny's Seeds

  • Website: http://www.johnnyseeds.com/
  • Email list: Sign up and get advance notice of special deals, discounts and a free monthly newsletter packed with growing tips
  • About: Specializes in organics, hybrids and heirloom seeds.

4. Gurney's Seed & Nursery Co.

  • Website: http://www.gurneys.com
  • Email list: Sign up (enter your email on the homepage) and get $25 off any $50 order, plus notice about specials and sales.
  • Specials: Visit the Web Exclusives page to get special discounts and deals
  • About: Free catalogue, satisfaction guarantee, find everything from seeds to trees.

5. Gardener's Supply Company

How to Find Freebies to Make Your Fall Garden Grow