Mulching your garden or farm every season may be a relatively simple or tedious task depending on the size of your garden. Still, your efforts will definitely pay off as you eventually get rewarded with lovely plant beds, fewer weeds, and healthier crops. But when it comes to purchasing your mulch, how much should you expect to pay per yard?
Mulch costs $15 to $65 per cubic yard when you order it in bulk, while delivery and installation covering about 100 square feet at 3 inches deep costs $30 to $110 per yard. A bag of mulch is usually priced between $2 and $7, and it’ll typically cover 8 square feet.
When it comes to buying mulch, there are several factors to take into account. Let’s take a look at how you can best determine whether you need to buy by the bag or get your mulch in bulk.
What Is Mulch?
Mulch is an agricultural material that’s made of things like leaves, bark, and compost and is used to shield the soil. Mulch isn’t used only to make your yard look tidy and appealing. Its primary benefit is conserving the soil moisture by acting as a blockade to evaporation, thereby providing a highly beneficial environment for every crop to develop.
Other advantages of mulch include:
- Improving organic matter in the soil
- Protecting the earth from exposure to direct sunlight
How Much Does Mulch Cost?
The cost of mulch varies according to the type and whether it’s purchased in bulk or by the bag. Hardwood mulches can cost around $25 per cubic yard or $30 to $40 per yard, while bagged hardwood mulch is priced at $2.87 or $3 per bag, adding up to $38.75 per cubic yard.
In contrast, economic mulches cost $15 to $30 per cubic yard and $2 to $6 per bag, while dyed mulches for any 160 square-foot flowerbeds cost $75. At the same time, wood chips for a larger area, say 500 square feet, cost $120 to $250 delivered, and if you’re going for high-end mulches, they cost $40 to $60.
That being said, mulches are not created equal, and as you read earlier, there are various types suitable for different crops. Some plants need specific kinds of mulch for proper development. Mulch can be divided into two primary categories: organic and inorganic.
Inorganic mulches don’t add nutrients to the soil, but they tend to last longer. Inorganic mulches include rubber, rocks, plastic, and landscape cloth.
On the other hand, organic mulches are plant-based, contributing to the soil properties and disintegrating over time, meaning they must be replenished as they decompose.
Examples include compost, wood chunks, leaves, pine straw, grass clippings, straw, and hay. Speaking of which, below is an outline of organic mulch types, including their prices per cubic foot, bag, and yard.
Compost is inexpensive and usually can be attained free of charge from food leftovers, leaves, and grass clippings. It has a similar appearance to the soil, except it’s darker, drawing attention to your plants.
Additionally, its average price per cubic yard varies from $13 for yard-derived compost to $35 for food-derived compost, while a bag costs between $2.35 and nearly $8.
Wood chips (on Amazon) are great for trees, paths, or shrubs but not so good for flowers and vegetables due to their tendency to bind the nitrogen needed by the plants and their shallow root structure. Wood chips cost $0.89 per cubic foot, $1.78 per bag, and $24 per cubic yard.
Dyed wood mulch, otherwise known as colored mulch, is worth $1.30 per cubic foot, $2.60 per bag, and $35 per cubic yard. It retains moisture in the soil and reduces the growth of weeds.
Organic mulches can be colored with vegetable dyes, and the hue usually lasts a couple of years. These mulches can be grouped into the following:
- Brown mulch (walnut) costs $1.11 per cubic foot and $29.97 per cubic yard; ($2 to $10 per bag).
- Red mulch (color scape) costs $1.29 per cubic foot and $34.95 per cubic yard; ($3 to $10 per bag).
- Black mulch (hardwood) costs $1.48 per cubic foot and $39.95 per cubic yard; ($3 to $6 per bag and $40 to $60 per yard).
- Black mulch (rubber) costs $4.81 per cubic foot and $129.80 per cubic yard.
- Brown mulch (rubber) costs $4.81 per cubic foot and $129.80 per cubic yard.
- Red mulch (rubber) costs $5.18 per cubic foot and $139.80 per cubic yard.
Rubber mulch (on Amazon) gets rid of insects and fungus from infecting your crops, and they come in diverse colors, commonly used in children’s playground areas or landscaping sites. It costs $4 per cubic foot, $7 per bag, and $150 per cubic yard, while for bulk purchase, it costs $300 to $800 per ton.
Cedar mulch (on Amazon) is valued between $3.70 per cubic foot, $7.40 per bag, and $100 per cubic yard. Cedar is widely known for its lively color and appealing smell in the garden; however, it is also very beneficial to earthworms and prevents bacteria as well as other pests.
Even so, this mulch type has a few downsides, including being slow to decompose and causing allergies in some sensitive people.
Cypress mulch (on Amazon) goes for $4.07 per cubic foot, $8.14 per bag, and $110 per cubic yard. It should be noted that it’s pretty porous and may not allow much moisture to absorb into the soil.
Hemlock mulch is very acidic, and you can get it for $1.67 per cubic foot, $3.34 per bag, and $45 per cubic yard. Since it has a high acidity level, you shouldn’t use it around alkaline-loving plants. Also, it is pretty slow in decomposing, so you may need to include some fertilizer when layering it.
Shredded Hardwood Mulch
Shredded hardwood mulch costs $1.50 for every cubic foot, $3 per bag, and $40 per cubic yard. It is further divided into double shredded and triple shredded mulch, which have more delicate cuts and are more effective at weed control.
The double shredded costs $1.60 per foot, $3.20 per bag, and $43 per yard, while the triple shredded costs $0.96 per foot, $1.92 per bag, and $26 per yard.
The thickly shredded hardwood mulch works perfectly around shrubs and trees, while the finely shredded ones are great for flowers.
Redwood or Gorilla Hair Mulch
Redwood or gorilla hair mulch is a fibrous, fuzzy, rich-colored mulch that costs $2.22 per cubic foot, $4.44 per bag, and $60 per cubic yard. It is good on slopes as it has a light and fluffy texture.
Furthermore, when wet, it’s heavy enough to deter weeds and stay still. You should know that redwood and cedar wood are naturally rot and pest repellant, making them excellent options for your garden.
Bark mulch is priced at $3.44 per cubic foot, $6.88 per bag, and $93 per cubic yard. It is commonly used on flowerbeds, with cedar bark being the most popular choice because of its smell and appearance.
Pine Bark and Pine Straw Mulch
Pine bark mulch (on Amazon) costs $0.96 per foot, $1.92 per bag, and $26 per yard. The chunks are very durable and last longer than most mulches but will be swept away in the rain. As for pine straw, installing it costs $38 per cubic yard and $1.41 per cubic foot.
It’s obtained from fallen pine needles, and its acidity makes it excellent for acid-loving plants like camellias, azaleas, and rhododendrons.
Tea Tree Mulch
Like cedar mulch, tea tree mulch has a pleasant smell that fends off pests while releasing nutrients gradually into the soil. It costs $1.58 per cubic foot, $3.16 per bag, and $42 per cubic yard.
Hay mulches are rich in nutrients and very beneficial to extensive vegetable gardens, with a low price of $82.50 per ton. This mulch type may contain seeds that cause weed growth; however, it has been proven by experienced agriculturists that its pros outweigh its cons.
Since the above-listed mulch types are organic, here are a few inorganic mulch types, including their costs:
Plastic mulches are regularly used in strawberry, melon, and cucumber gardens to ensure the climbers stay clean and decay-free. They cost $20 for a 4 x 100-foot sheet that doesn’t allow water to pass through, making it useful around plants to shield the root system.
Gravel and Crushed Stone or Brick Mulches
You can get either for $10 to $20 per ton, and they can be used over a garden bed. Gravel and crushed rocks prevent weed growth but could also sink into the soil.
To stop this from happening, use landscape fabric under the stones; this will also discourage the weeds from sprouting.
Lava rock (on Amazon) is worth $80 to $240 per ton and $50 to $180 per cubic yard. It serves as a lightweight mulch substitute that conserves moisture and heat, stops soil erosion, and enhances drainage.
Factors Impacting Mulch Prices
There are a few factors affecting mulch prices, and as you read above, the different mulch types constitute a significant factor. Others include:
Bagged mulch is calculated in cubic feet, while bulk mulch, also known as mulch by the truckload, is measured in cubic yards. In straightforward terms, when you buy a truckload of mulch, you will pay less than purchasing smaller cubic yards or feet as one to three cubic yards of mulch costs between $40 and $100 while above ten cubic yards costs $10 to $20.
If the area you plan on mulching is extensive, or you prefer your mulch to be in thick layers, you will need to purchase more mulch. For example, covering a 324-square-foot area with a one-inch mulch layer will require one cubic yard of mulch, while a two-inch layer will cost you two cubic yards of mulch.
Some affordable mulches, like certain organic ones, require replenishing from time to time whenever they break down, as they can’t last as long as other mulches.
The regular replenishing costs add up year by year. This does not affect inorganic mulches as they don’t need replacement since they take years to disintegrate. However, inorganic mulches cost more than organic ones, and they may save you more in cases of degrading and replenishing.
Bulk Mulch Prices
Bulk mulch costs $15 to $65 for every cubic yard, with a good number of homeowners spending $350 to $400 for ten yards delivered, including professional installation.
Such purchases require delivery and installation, the former costing an average of $40 to $100 while the latter can be done for $20 to $45 per yard, depending on the project. As for both, an average homeowner spends about $141 to $291.
Larger mulching projects such as layering mulch in a forested area of your yard are worth less per yard and are less tedious when the mulch is purchased in large quantities and delivered to your house directly. This means that the more you buy, the cheaper it’ll be.
Below is a summary of bulk mulch prices for every cubic yard:
- 1 cubic yard costs $60
- 1.5 cubic yards cost $50
- 2 to 5 cubic yards cost $40
- 6 to 11 cubic yards cost $25
- 11 cubic yards and above cost $15
How Much Does It Cost to Hire Someone to Mulch?
Hiring someone to mulch costs a flat rate of $20 to $45 per cubic yard, depending on the type of mulch you choose and the depth. Installing hardwood mulch on a 100-square-feet vegetable garden costs $70-$100 while setting up playground mulch on play areas of 250 square feet is worth $175 to $300.
Similarly, installing colored mulch on a 300-square-feet of flowerbed goes for $150 to $250, while adding wood chips on a landscape area of a thousand feet costs $350 to $600.
The general mulch installation costs by size include:
- 250 square feet – $120 to $260
- 400 square feet – $160 to $400
- 700 square feet – $220 to $700
- 1,000 square feet – $320 to $1,000
- 2,000 square feet – $640 t0 $2,000
Several other mulching-related services a hired hand can assist with include mulch-blowing, forestry mulching, weeding, and edging. As for mulch-blowing services, they are cheaper and faster than hand mulching, particularly for more extensive jobs since they use a piece of special equipment.
A mulch-blowing service is priced at $35 to $60 per cubic yard compared to hand mulching, which runs between $50 and $100 per yard.
On the other hand, like land clearing, forestry mulching costs $150 to $250 per hour or an actual rate of $400 per acre. The final prices for this service depend on the land size and the number of trees at the site.
Weeding by yourself may seem stressful if you’re busy by nature, so why not hire a gardener who will charge an average of $30 to $60 per hour for hand-pulling the weeds? Generally, the majority of homeowners spend between $65 and $120 for weed control, depending on the applied technique.
Lastly, edging, otherwise known as curbing, keeps your mulch in position during windy or rainy days while also giving off a tidy appearance. It involves the use of wood, bricks, and rocks to create an attractive line between the grass and flowerbeds. This service costs most homeowners an average of $750 to $1,600.
How Do You Calculate How Much Mulch You Need?
Calculating how much mulch you need depends on the type of mulch you’re using. Try not to get more than required. Plant roots need air to stay alive, and the deeper the mulch, the more likely your plant roots will suffocate.
Not to mention, deeper mulch layers cause moisture to shed off the top of the mulch rather than passing through and absorbing into the soil underneath.
Generally, a two-inch deep layer of organic mulch is suitable enough to retain moisture and deter weeds. On the other hand, mulches with fine textures like ground hardwood should not be more than three inches deep, while thickly textured mulches can be up to four inches deep.
Moving on to how to determine the amount of mulch you need: Firstly, calculate the square foot measurement of your plant bed by multiplying the width by length for rectangular or square beds. In the case of round beds, multiply the radius by itself and 3.14. You should know that the radius of your circular bed is the distance from its middle to its edge.
After getting the square foot measurement of your plant bed, you can then find the total amount of mulch needed by multiplying the derived square foot area by the depth in inches you desire for the mulch and dividing the result by 324.
Since mulch is sold per cubic yard and a cubic yard of mulch covers a 324-square-foot area one inch deep, there’s the 324-value used in the calculation.
The general formula is: (Square foot area x depth in inches desired) /324 = total mulch amount needed in cubic yards
If you prefer not to do the calculation manually, you can use an automatic mulch calculator for quicker results.
How Many Bags of Mulch Are in a Cubic Yard?
There are twenty-seven cubic feet in one cubic yard, and bagged mulches are usually sold in two cubic foot bags. So, to determine how many bags of mulch can be found in a cubic yard, divide 27 by two, resulting in 13.5 bags.
For example, if you used 81 bags last year, you would get a similar quantity of mulch in (81÷13.5 =) 6 cubic yards.
Which Type of Mulch Is Best?
Organic mulches are typically the best for every soil as they break down and increase the soil’s structure and fertility. Compost is a highly nutritious organic mulch that fosters soil organisms and stimulates plant growth, while shredded barks are environmentally friendly and perfect for mulching on slopes.
Other organic mulches like straw and pine or cedar bark chips are slower in breaking down than several other mulches. The latter helps keep dirt off your garden produce while the latter is available in different sizes, of which the larger pieces last longer.
Also, since the bark chips tend to float away when rain falls, they’re not best for slopes, whereas straw is best used in vegetable gardens and around strawberry shrubs.
In contrast, inorganic mulches may not improve soil properties, but they don’t break down, making them more long-lasting than organic mulches. Rocks and stones won’t require replacements, as you read earlier; however, they can get very hot under the sun. These inorganic mulches are commonly used in cactus and rock gardens.