How To Lay Mulch : A Step-By-Step Guide

Mulching your landscape seems simple enough — shovel, dump, and spread. But there is a lot more that goes into it than meets the eye. This guide provides plenty of tips for laying mulch in your flower beds and other areas of your garden. Mulch Calculator : How Much Should You Buy?

Your first step will be to calculate exactly how much mulch to purchase in order to finish the job. You don’t want to find yourself short on supplies halfway through the project as your mulch supply dwindles. 

At the same time, you don’t want a mountain of mulch left over when the job is finished. So what’s the formula to determine how many bags of mulch to buy?


To calculate the total square footage of my bed, I need to know the length and width of my garden. My room is 8 feet long by 10 feet wide. So, I multiply 8 x 2.5 to 20 x 2.5 to 50. That equals 50 square feet.

The total square footage determines how much mulch you need. You multiply the square footage by the thickness of the mulch (2 inches) to determine how many bags you need. 

For example, if your yard has an area of 1,000 square feet, you’ll need to buy 10 bags of mulch. 3 cubic foot bags: Square Footage/18Total bags needed for a 2 inch thick layer of mulch. 

Bulk mulch:Square Footage/128 Total scoops needed for a 2″ thick layer of mulch.

Organic Mulch

Organic mulch is made up of living organisms such as grasses, weeds, and other plant life. These plants provide nutrients and moisture to the soil.

This helps the plants grow better. Inorganic mulch includes plastic, rocks, rock chips, and other non plant material. Plastic is the only type of inorganic mulch used by gardeners.

Organic mulch is made up of different types of material. Straw, compost, newspaper, and sawdust are some examples. These materials help retain moisture in the ground. This helps plants grow better.

Recommended: Mulch Over Seeds

Value Of mulches

A 4 inch layer of mulch on top of the soil surface helps keep water from washing off soil particles. 

  • This slows down the evaporation process. 
  • It also keeps rain drops from splashing onto the soil surface. 

These two factors help keep the soil moist. A 4 inch layer of soil mulch dries out much faster than the soil beneath it. Thus, it keeps water from moving into the atmosphere.

  • Mulch keeps the soil cool in the winter and warmer in the summer. 
  • Organic mulch improves the soil and makes it easy to till and cultivate. 
  • Mulching prevents weeds and controls them when they do emerge. Turning under the mulch after the gardening season ends helps build the soil’s organic content.
  • Mulching helps control unwanted weeds. It also makes it easier to remove weeds that do emerge. Fluffing the mulch improves weed control.
  • Mulching your garden can increase vegetable production by up to 50%. 
  • Mulching your garden reduces the amount of fruit rot. You should use straw or grass clippings as mulch.
  • Mulching keeps weeds down and prevents soil erosion.
  • Mulched vegetables are cleaner at harvest time. 

Recommended: Mulching In The Rain

When To Lay Down Mulch

Mulching should be done in the spring and fall. Seasonal rains help to break down organic material in mulch, which helps to penetrate the soil. 

Layering mulch provides an extra layer of insulation during the cold winter months.

How To Lay Mulch In Steps

Mulching is an important part of gardening. To make sure you do it right, here are the steps you should take when mulching. 

  • You’ll need a shovel or pitch fork to dig up the soil and put it into a wheelbarrow. 
  • Then you’ll use a trowel to spread the mulch around.
  • Finally, you’ll rake the mulch back into the garden beds.

Instruments Needed

Wheelbarrow — For easily carrying your mulch to different locations of your yard. 

Rakes — Bow rakes are considered the best rakes for spreading mulch because they’re short and sturdy. You can also use a handy leaf rake to get the job done. Flip it over and utilize the backside for a smooth mulch operation with no bumps or lugs.

Gloves protect your hands when you’re spreading mulch around plants or in hard-to-get places. Mulching helps prevent weeds from growing in your garden. To make sure your gloves stay clean, wash them regularly.

Learn more: How Many Tomato Plants In A 2×4 Raised Bed

Mulching Materials

Mulching is an important part of gardening. You should use compost as your main source of mulch. It is cheap and you can get it for free from your local park or community center. 

There are many ways to make compost. Some people add leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen scraps to their compost pile.

Others mix them together and let them sit until everything decomposes into a rich soil-like substance.

Plastic is an effective mulch when used correctly. In the spring and early summer, use black plastic to warm the soil. This helps prevent weeds from growing. 

Clear plastics warm the soil, but weeds can still grow under the clear plastic. At the end of the season, turn the plastic into the soil.

Remove the plastic mulch at the end of the season. Turn over the straw and other organic mulch.

Selection Of Mulching Material

Mulching materials should be chosen carefully. The most important factor is cost. Don’t spend money unnecessarily. 

Consider what crop you’re mulching. You should never mulch with material from your current crop. That could transmit disease.

Mulch should be applied to the garden after the ground has warmed up. 

  • Light colored mulch reflects sunlight, warming the soil and making it easier for plants to grow. 
  • Dark colored mulch absorbs sunlight, keeping the soil cool and slowing plant growth.

How To Water After Mulching

Watering after mulching is done by applying the mulch to the ground around the plants. 

  • Mulch should be about two inches thick to let water pass through to the roots. 
  • Keep a space of one to two inches between the stems of the plants and the mulch to prevent rot. 
  • Use a watering can or a hose to water the plants.

Watering the whole root area and leaving a space between the stems and the mulch allows water to get to the center of the plants.

Can You Water Before Mulching?

Mulch can be applied before watering. Spraying the mulch lightly holds it in place.