How to Mulch an Area

This Landscaper’s guide on how to mulch an area will explain how to measure beds, how to spread mulch, and other helpful tips.

Why Mulch your Beds?

Neatly mulched beds dramatically improve the appearance of any landscape. Mulch also protects the plants' root systems, adds nutrients to the soil, prevents weeds, and retains moisture.

Mulch draws attention to your landscaping the same way a picture frame draws attention to a work of art.

When to Mulch

The best time to mulch is in the late spring when your landscape is starting to bloom. May or early June.

Mulch looks best when you first put it down. So, don’t put it down too early. After a few months, the color fades and it doesn’t look as fresh. While some homeowners put down more mulch in September, most people only put it down once a year.

How to Measure your Beds

1 cubic yard of mulch will cover 324 square feet spread 1 inch thin. Here is how to calculate how many yards you need:

  1. Calculate square footage of your beds. Don’t worry about being exact.
    • Squares, Rectangles = Length x Width
    • Circles: Area = 3.14 x (Radius)(Radius)
  2. Multiply square footage of your beds by desired depth in inches.
  3. Divide by 324.

Sample calculation for a rectangular area 4’ x 85’ that you want mulch spread 2 inches thick.

  • 4’x 85’ = 340 sq ft.
  • 340’ x 2 inches = 680
  • 680 / 324 = 2 cubic yards.

Buying Mulch

Buy in Bulk. If you need more than 6 yards of mulch, it is most cost effective to buy in bulk. Order in yards from your local nursery, landscape material supplier, or local landscaper. They will deliver it to your driveway in a dump truck. Although, you will pay a delivery charge, it will still cost less than buying individual bags.

Bags of Mulch. Only buy in bags if you have a small area to cover. One bag of mulch does not go far. When people buy in bags, they tend to spread the mulch very thin, which does not look as good. Beds will look professionally landscaped if the mulch is piled at least two inches thick.

How to Mulch an Area

  1. Prepare beds:
    • Clean out leaves and debris. Pull out or kill existing weeds with weed control.
    • Edge the bed border. Use a spade shovel to dig a deep, sharp edge.
  2. Leave small piles of mulch through out the bed.
  3. Use a metal rake to spread it in open areas. Use your hands for tight and delicate areas around plants.

DON’Ts about How to Mulch an Area

  1. Do NOT fill in the dug edges with mulch. This looks sloppy.
  2. Do NOT spread the mulch too thin. This looks cheap.
  3. Do NOT put landscape fabric under the mulch to keep out weeds. Trust me. Here’s why:
    • It may look fine when you first put it down. However, after a few months, the landscape fabric ALWAYS comes up around the edges. Rain causes mulch to slide off the fabric, leaving the fabric exposed. This looks sloppy. It will create more work for you later because you will be burying the exposed fabric or buying more mulch to cover it.
    • Weeds will appear anyway because weed seeds are blown around and land on top of the mulch. Handle the weeds by hand or spray with a weed control.
If you don’t have time to do it yourself, have a local landscape company do it. It may even be cheaper because they buy in bulk. You can sign up online for a free estimate.

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