But come prepared to get a little bit dirty.

Hands Holding Mulch
Credit: witmerphotography/Getty Images

An experienced gardener knows that a garden is only as good as its mulch.

"Along with its aesthetic appeal, mulch protects soil from harsh climates, prevents weeds, retains moisture, and protects sensitive seedlings," Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals, told Realtor.com.

A natural material typically made of ground wood, leaves, or yard clippings, mulch isn't hard to come by. You can find it at most nurseries and home improvement stores. But, like anything else, it will cost you.

So, what if we told you that there were a number of legitimate ways to get your hands on quality mulch for free?

According to Henriksen, many cities and towns that collect leaves and tree limbs in the fall will dole out free mulch to residents at recycling and disposal centers. Check with your local officials to see if your community participates in a similar program.

Tree-care companies are also a great place to find free, quality mulch.

"Tree services are a great resource for fresh mulch, as they generate and need to dispose of wood chips on a daily basis," Henriksen told Realtor.com. "Many services are willing to offload their chips for free, and they may even be willing to deliver it right to your driveway."

WATCH: Grumpy Gardener Mulch Bloopers

Before you set out on a quest for free mulch, keep in mind that many of these places are self-serve. Steven Voss, owner of Voss Land & Tree in Columbia, Missouri, recommends bringing supplies (a shovel and a tarp) and maybe an extra pair of hands.