Mulch Matters

Mulch keeps moisture in the soil and moderates soil temperature. Mulch also reduces erosion and weeds. Mulch is often sold in bags, by the yard or by the truckload. Organic mulches produced by nature make an attractive, natural mulch and are free! Think of it as nature’s great design of providing low-maintenance, free root protection! Mulch is a great option for preventing bare spots from foot traffic and keeping soil in place, but should not be placed in areas where runoff from storms will wash the mulch away.

Mulch: How much do you need to have the recommended depth of 3 inches?

By the bag:
1 bag containing 2 cubic feet covers 8 square feet (2 ft. X 4 ft.)

By the bale:
1 bale of pine straw covers 18 to 20 square feet.

By the yard:
1 cubic yard covers 108 square feet (9 ft. x 12 ft.)

By the truckload:
1 mini pickup holds 1½ yards and covers 162 square feet (9 ft. x 18 ft.)
1 full-sized pickup holds 2½ yards and covers 270 square feet (9 ft. x 30 ft.)

If you are buying bags containing 2 cubic feet of mulch, you can use the following chart:

Size of plant bed Depth of mulch
in square feet (sq. ft.)
2 inches 3 inches 4 inches
25 sq. ft. 2 bags 3 bags 4 bags
50 sq. ft. 4 bags 6 bags 9 bags

100 sq. ft.

9 bags

13 bags

17 bags

Mulch Matters Action Checklist:

  1. Create self-mulching areas under trees where leaves can stay where they fall.
  2. Use fallen leaves and pine needles as mulch under trees and shrubs. They make an attractive, natural mulch and are free. If you have more than you can use, share them with a friend or neighbor.
  3. Maintain a 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch over the roots of trees, shrubs, and in plant beds. Remember to leave at least a hand’s width of space between the mulch and the plant’s trunk or stem.
  4. Prevent erosion and soil loss by applying mulch to areas where lawn will not thrive, such as gentle slopes and high traffic areas of your yard. 

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Did you know?

Nature produces large quantities of mulch all of the time. Think about the fallen leaves, needles, twigs, pieces of bark, spent flower blossoms, fallen fruit, and other organic material that ends up in your yard. You can recycle these organic materials as mulch. This will help retain nutrients found in organic yard materials and can save you time and money!

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Tip:

The amount of mulch to apply often depends on the mulch material, however a good rule-of-thumb in your yard is to maintain a 2-3” depth of organic mulch in your yard. Use less mulch on soils that are poorly drained or remain damp to allow for drying.

Additional Resources:

HGIC 1604: Mulch

HGIC 1253: Controlling Weeds by Cultivating & Mulching

Carolina Yards Scorecard