Mulching is the secret to a beautiful garden. Mulch can hydrate your garden, improve soil fertility, protect plant roots from injury, prevent weed growth, and beautify the landscape. But how much mulch do you need? Calculating the weight of a cubic yard of mulch gives you an idea of the soil cover you need for your garden.
The weight of a cubic yard of mulch ranges from 400 to 800 pounds. Mulch weight variation depends on the type of mulch and the moisture content. River rock, straw, and rubber mulches are heavier compared to wood, lava rock, or marble chips. Mulch stored outside may get extremely heavy from rain.
Calculating the mulch weight can be a bit confusing, but in the end it will help you budget for the mulch costs and installation. Let’s find out how to figure out the mulch weight and how much mulch you’ll need for your garden.
What Is Mulch?
Mulch is a material (organic or inorganic) spread over the soil in a garden to serve various functions. Mulching can offer a protective cover in your garden to prevent injury to plant roots in freezing conditions. Mulch also helps with weed control by limiting light entry into the soil to suppress weeds from sprouting.
Organic mulch includes materials such as tree leaves, shredded tree bark, wood chipping, grass clippings, straw (on Amazon), recycled paper, and pine needles. These materials decompose and add valuable nutrients to the soil in your garden. Plant roots and microorganisms feed on these nutrients to create fertile conditions for your plants.
Natural mulch materials break the fall of heavy rain and allow water to seep into the soil slowly. The mulch layer also preserves moisture in the soil during hot weather. By preventing loss of water through evaporation, mulch guarantees healthy plants even in extremely hot conditions.
Mulch also breaks down the topsoil layer and prevents crusting for easy flow of water into the soil. Microorganisms can also move easily through the loose soil to mix up the nutrients and promote a healthier garden.
Inorganic mulch is a type of soil covering made of materials that don’t break down easily. The materials don’t add nutrients to the soil, but work effectively in weed prevention. Inorganic mulch materials include river pebbles, gravel, recycled rubber, landscape fabric, and plastic sheeting (all on Amazon).
The inorganic matter doesn’t break down easily to replenish your garden, but serves other purposes. The effective weed barrier also adds a distinct character to your landscape. Pebbles and gravel come in unique colors that suit your garden’s aesthetic needs.
Natural materials like stone beautify your garden and are hard to wash away, even in heavy rain. Inorganic mulch costs more initially, but you won’t have to reapply it every other year.
Some inorganic mulch materials might trap excessive heat, leading to root damage. The heavy soil cover might also smother the soil and prevent an easy exchange of air and moisture. Rubber mulch might emit some chemicals which affect the ecosystem.
Mulch Weight Per Cubic Yard
A cubic yard of mulch measuring 3 feet wide by 3 feet long by 3 feet deep (27 cubic feet) weighs from 400 to 800 pounds. Mulch weight per cubic yard depends on the material, condition, and depth of the mulch.
For instance, a cubic yard of straw mulch weighs less than a cubic yard of chipped wood. Some materials, such as fresh grass clippings contain high water content. The moisture content in some mulches affects the weight per cubic yard.
If you compare dry mulch and wet mulch, the difference in weight is significant. Dry mulch light and can weigh 400 pounds. Wet mulch is heavier and weighs up to 1,000 pounds per cubic yard.
When buying mulch for your garden, consider how the material will get to your property. For instance, if you need fresh wood chippings to cover 8 cubic yards and a cubic yard of mulch weighs 800 pounds, you have to haul 6,400 pounds of material.
Here’s a breakdown of mulch weight by type per cubic yard:
- Wood mulch: 550 pounds in a cubic yard
- Straw mulch: 1,400 pounds in a cubic yard
- River rock: 1,350 pounds in a cubic yard
- Lava rock: 520 pounds in a cubic yard
- Rubber mulch: 1,200 pounds in a cubic yard
- Compost mulch: 1,200 pounds in a cubic yard
- Marble chips: 650 pounds in a cubic yard
When buying mulch for your garden, use cubic yards instead of bags. A bag of mulch carries about 50 to 90 pounds. To reduce the load, buy mulch by the yard and request delivery from the seller. If you have a large yard, buying in truckloads can earn you a discount, which reduces the total cost of the project.
How Much Does a Yard of Mulch Cost?
The price of a cubic yard of mulch ranges from $15 to $65. Different factors affect the variation in the cost of a cubic yard of mulch. Cubic yard is the measurement used when planning for mulch and it refers to 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet, or 27 cubic feet of mulch.
Cost of Mulch Per Bag
The cost per bag of mulch ranges from $2 to $6, but the cost could go up depending on other factors. Colored/dyed mulch costs more compared to ordinary mulch. Here’s a quick breakdown of bagged mulch costs based on the type of product:
- Purple Mulch: $4 to $10 per bag
- Cedar Mulch: $3 to $10 per bag
- Red Mulch: $3 to $10 per bag
- Dark Brown Mulch: $2 to $10 per bag
- Pine Mulch: $2 to $5 per bag
- Rubber Mulch: $7 to $15 per bag
- Black Mulch: $3 to $6 per bag
Bagged mulch comes in 2-cubic-foot bags, and 13.5 bags make a cubic yard of mulch.
Bagged vs. Bulk Mulch
Bagged mulch is economical if you don’t have a large yard to cover. Pricing for bulk mulch is in terms of yard size and ranges from $15 to $65 per yard compared to $50 to $60 per yard for bagged mulch.
Buying in bulk saves you a lot of money and labor. You can order a truckload of the type of mulch you need for your garden. For a very large yard, buy your mulch on pallets which contain 55 bags to cover about 440-660 square feet.
Other Related Mulch Costs
When budgeting for mulch placement, consider the cost of professional installation services if you need them. A landscaper’s fee comes to around $20 to $45 per cubic yard. The average mulch installation price for homeowners is $38 per yard.
When the contractor comes to inspect your garden and give a quote, confirm whether they charge a flat mulch installation rate or an hourly rate. Here’s the total breakdown of expected mulch installation cost:
- Mulch cost and delivery: From $15 – $65 per cubic yard
- Installation cost: From $20 – $45 per cubic yard
- Total cost of mulch and installation: From $35 – $110 per cubic yard
The installation cost doesn’t include the mulch bed preparations, such as weeding. The type of mulch installation also determines the overall bill. If you have a large yard, mulch-blowing is a faster and more affordable mulch application process compared to hand mulching.
If your landscaper suggests the use of landscaping plastic or cloth, the installation adds to the overall cost of the project. By using the correct mulch thickness, you won’t need landscaping sheeting; the natural soil cover will prevent weed growth effectively.
How Much Does a 2-Cubic-Foot Bag of Mulch Weigh?
On average, a 2-cubic-foot bag weighs between 20 and 60 pounds, but the weight differs depending on the mulch material. For instance, a 2-cubic-foot bag of dry wood mulch weighs about 20 pounds while semi-dry wood mulch weighs 30 pounds.
Here’s a summary of mulch weight by type in a 2-cubic-foot bag:
- Wood mulch: ~30 pounds
- Straw mulch: ~50 pounds
- Rubber mulch: ~90 pounds
- River stone mulch: ~200 pounds
- Lava rock mulch: ~80 pounds
- Egg rock mulch: ~190 pounds
- Marbles chips mulch: ~220 pounds
How Much Does a Yard of Mulch Cover?
If you plan to mulch your garden, first calculate the quantity of soil cover you need to purchase. Typically, 2 to 3 inches of mulch depth will offer sufficient protection for your plants and keep the weeds down.
To determine the cubic yards of mulch required to cover your garden, use this formula:
Square footage x Desired mulch depth / 324 = Cubic yards of mulch needed
To apply the formula and cubic yards of mulch you need, follow these steps:
- Get the square footage of your bed: Measure the width of the area and multiply this by the length of the area.
- Take the square footage and multiply by the desired depth of mulch. 3 inches is the average.
- To get the cubic yards, divide the figure from the last step and divide this by 324 (A cubic yard of mulch an inch deep typically covers 324 sq. ft.)
For instance, if your garden is 20 by 15 feet, multiply these to get the square footage, which is 300 square feet in this case. Multiple this by 3 inches, which is the desired depth of your mulch to get 900.
Divide the figure by 324 to arrive at the cubic yard of mulch you need. In this example, you get 2.7 cubic yards, which you can round off to 3 cubic yards.