How Much Is a Yard of Mulch?
Mulch dresses up a landscaped bed or flower garden, and it keeps vital moisture in the soil from evaporating too quickly. It can even boost curb appeal. How much is a yard of mulch? Find out here.
- Typical Range: $100 to $300
- National Average: $175
Mulch offers a finishing touch for flower beds, perennial beds, and gardens, and purchasing it in bulk (by the cubic yard) is the most cost-effective way to buy it. Mulch installation ranges from about $100 to $300 and comes with a national average of $175 for both delivery and installation. But how much is a yard of mulch cover? Numerous factors can affect the final cost, including the type of mulch purchased. Ahead, learn more about this product that reduces weeding, helps soil retain moisture, keeps plant roots cool in scorching temperatures, and makes a yard look attractive.
How to Calculate How Much Mulch You Need
When someone says “a yard of mulch,” what they’re actually referring to is a cubic yard. How much is a cubic yard of mulch? It’s equal to 3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet (27 cubic feet) of mulch. Use the following formula to determine how much mulch is needed for a specific area:
- Measure the width of the area.
- Multiply that number by the length of the area.
- Multiply that number by the desired depth of mulch in inches (3 inches is about average).
- Divide that number by 324 for the amount in cubic yards.
For example, if a perennial bed measures 20 feet long and is 10 feet wide, by multiplying 20 by 10, you get 200 square feet. To cover the bed with 3 inches of mulch, you’d multiply 200 by 3 (200 x 3 = 600). You would then divide 600 by 324 to arrive at 1.85 cubic yards. For the best results, it’s a good idea to round up to the nearest ¼ of a yard, so the gardener or landscaper would want to order 2 cubic yards.
Buying mulch by the cubic yard is the most cost-effective method. A single yard of mulch (material only, not delivery or installation) runs about $30. Companies may not give a discount for buying just a few yards, so 3 yards might run $90, and 10 yards might run $100. By the time you purchase 20 yards or more, however, you might get a slight discount. For example, if you buy a whole truckload that carries 20 yards, you could pay $550 for the entire load, which averages about $27.50 per yard. Additional factors that affect mulch cost include the type of mulch, whether it’s organic, and delivery and installation costs.
Mulch Type and Color
The cost of mulch varies widely by type. The more plentiful the mulch, the less it typically costs. Pine bark, for example, is a common type of mulch, and it runs about $30 per cubic yard, while red mulch and black mulch (usually pine mulch that’s been dyed) run about $35 and $40 per cubic yard, respectively. Hardwood mulch sells for around $40 a cubic yard, while cypress, which is in lower supply but naturally repels insects, can run around $110 per cubic yard.
Organic vs. Inorganic Mulch
Organic mulch is made from natural ingredients and does not contain chemicals, artificial colors, or any other components that might leech into the soil, making it well suited for vegetable gardens. Organic wood chips run an average of $150 per yard, while organic hay costs about $85 per ton. On the flip side, inorganic mulches, such as recycled rubber chips, can run between $80 and $160 per yard.
A truck with a dump bed will typically deliver large amounts of mulch. Mulch is loaded onto the truck in the materials’ yard of a landscape company, or the company may purchase the mulch directly from a supplier. Either way, a front-end loader is required for loading the mulch into the dump bed, and then the truck can deliver and dump the mulch. Due to the overhead costs of purchasing and maintaining the heavy equipment, expect delivery charges for a truckload of mulch to start around $160 per load.
Labor and Installation
Homeowners can expect to pay between $20 and $45 per cubic yard to have workers from a landscape company spread mulch on flower beds and perennial borders. If you live outside the area typically serviced by the landscaping company, a travel fee may be added to the cost of labor and installation.
The larger the area to be landscaped, the more it will cost. Skimping on mulch to save money could have undesirable results, especially if the mulch layer is too thin to stop weed growth adequately. On average, 3 inches of mulch are necessary to block weeds and reduce moisture evaporation from the soil, but some prefer a thicker layer (up to 6 inches).
Additional Costs and Considerations
Installing mulch is pretty much a straightforward chore, but it comes with a few variations, such as having it blown on rather than spread with a rake, and it may require the installation of sheets of mulch placed beneath standard mulch chips or shreds. These variations can affect the overall cost of the project.
Shredded wood chips can be applied to landscaped perennial beds and large areas using a blowing machine. Blowing reduces the amount of labor required to spread out the chips, and most homeowners will pay between $35 and $60 per cubic yard to blow on mulch. The cost will also vary depending on the type of wood chips chosen.
In some situations, a mulching sheet made from woven cloth or plastic is beneficial for use as an additional weed-blocking layer between the soil and the mulch layer. A woven or perforated sheet will allow water to filter through but block weed seeds from sprouting. Expect to pay about $0.65 per square foot for plastic sheeting and around $0.30 per square foot for woven landscape cloth.
Types of Mulch
Shoppers are often surprised by the multiple types of mulch available at a range of costs. Wood that is in greater demand or harder to source typically results in mulch that’s more expensive, while recycled wood from pallets can be much more affordable. Before shopping for mulch, it’s a good idea to settle on a budget and then choose from the types available in that price range.
Colored mulch, most often colored red or brown, is made from pine bark—the most common type of wood mulch—and then dyed to achieve an attractive color for use in landscaped beds. Overall, dyeing the mulch adds about $5 per cubic yard to the total cost. For example, a yard of pine bark costs about $30, and a yard of red-dyed bark runs about $35.
While black mulch is also a dyed mulch, it’s typically dyed with either a carbon-based or iron oxide–based chemical and is slightly pricier at about $40 per cubic yard. Black mulch also comes in rubber chips, which are well suited for playgrounds under equipment because they provide a soft surface for children playing. Black rubber mulch runs about $80 to $160 per square foot.
Regular, undyed wood chips, such as pine or oak, are often sourced by recycling shipping pallets and are among the least expensive types of mulch. Expect to pay about $30 per cubic yard for this standard type of mulch. If, however, the wood chips are organic and sourced from wood that has not been used in pallets or treated with any kind of chemicals, a cubic yard could run as much as $150.
True to its name, bark mulch is sourced from trees harvested for other purposes, such as making lumber. Some prefer bark mulch because a tree’s natural bark texture shows through, adding another design element to the landscape. However, you’ll pay more for this upgrade as bark mulch runs about $95 per cubic yard.
Shredded Hardwood Mulch
Shredded hardwood mulch may come from oak shipping pallets, but instead of running it through a chipper to produce chunks, the wood is run through a shredder, which results in a fine texture. Due to the added cost of purchasing a shredding machine, the cost of shredded mulch can be slightly higher at around $40 per cubic yard.
Cedar mulch is prized for its aromatic nature and its natural resistance to rotting and insect infestation. Cedarwood is not as abundant as other types, such as pine and oak, so cedar mulch is also pricier. Expect to pay about $100 per cubic yard for cedar mulch.
Like cedar, cypress wood is considered a premium material. It’s also weather- and insect-resistant, so it’s well suited for use around trees and shrubs that may be susceptible to insect problems. You’ll pay about $110 per cubic yard for cypress mulch, but it won’t need to be refreshed throughout the growing season because it lasts longer than other types of wood mulch.
Pine Needles, Straw, and Pine Bark
While pine bark is often the most affordable mulch option, running about $30 per cubic yard, pine needles are quite a bit more costly, running an average of $150 per cubic yard. Straw, the dried lower stalks of wheat or other crops, is relatively inexpensive and usually sold by the ton rather than the yard. Straw mulch runs about $85 per ton.
Rubber mulch is often sourced from recycled tires and then ground into small chunks that form a soft surface underfoot. It’s an eco-friendly option because it keeps the tires out of landfills, and at the same time, it provides an optimal surface for use under play equipment. Rubber mulch runs between $80 and $160 per cubic yard.
Mulch from redwood has a slight reddish tinge when it’s freshly shredded or chipped. In time, it will weather to a soft, silvery gray, which many find attractive. Redwood mulch offers some insect-resistant properties as well. Expect to pay $60 to $75 per cubic yard for redwood mulch.
Like cedar, hemlock is naturally aromatic, and it’s pretty dense when layered in landscaped beds, making it among the best options for areas where heavy rains tend to cause some types of mulch to float away. Hemlock also repels insects. It runs about $45 to $65 per cubic yard, depending on whether it’s in good supply in an area.
Other Types of Mulch
Homeowners can choose from a plethora of mulch types, some that are free. Shredded leaves, raked up after they’ve fallen in autumn, make an excellent mulch for layering thickly around the bases of plants to help insulate them from winter’s coming chill. Grass clippings are also suitable for insulating plants, and they’re free—if you bag your own.
How to Choose the Right Mulch
The best mulch for one homeowner may not be the best for another. When choosing mulch, consider the overall landscaping budget and how much you want to spend to achieve the desired look.
For those seeking to conserve water in a vegetable garden, an organic mulch makes sense because it will reduce weeds and keep moisture in the soil from evaporating quickly. Still, it will not leach chemicals or other contaminants into the ground where the growing plant roots could absorb them. An organic mulch will cost $30 to $150 per cubic yard, depending on the type chosen.
Decorative mulches run the gamut in price, ranging from $100 to $300, with a national average of around $175. Choosing an inexpensive pine chip mulch will cost just $30 per cubic yard, while the same amount of cypress mulch runs closer to $110.
Benefits of Mulch
Mulch offers a wide range of benefits for gardeners, landscapers, and homeowners alike. While the national average a homeowner will spend on a mulching project is about $175, the final cost will depend on the type of mulch chosen and how much mulch is needed. Most discover that the cost of the mulch is well worth it for the benefits it brings.
Mulch Reduces Evaporation From the Soil
The hot sun draws vital moisture from the soil on a hot summer day, increasing the need to water more to keep plants healthy. By blocking the sun from reaching the earth, mulch acts as a vapor barrier, keeping the soil moist for longer. This helps conserve water and save you money on your water bill—wins for the environment and your wallet.
Mulch Prevents Weed Growth
In the same way that mulch reduces evaporation, it also reduces weeds. Plants, even weeds, need light, water, and air to grow. But when weed seeds sprout under a layer of mulch, the mulch acts as a dark blanket, keeping sunlight from reaching the soil, so the weed seedlings perish at ground level. Mulching sheets underneath help to quash growing weeds even more effectively.
Mulch Improves Soil Insulation
With a thick layer of winter insulation, perennial plants that might otherwise have succumbed to a cold winter might survive. Most of the time, gardeners pile dry leaves or grass clippings around the bases of plants before Old Man Winter arrives. Professionally mulching can be even more effective and is certainly more aesthetically pleasing.
Mulch Improves Soil Quality
Organic mulches improve the nutrient level of the soil as they degrade. Adding a layer of straw or hay, which runs about $85 per ton, will loosen heavy clay-type soils, making it easier for plants to thrive. In general, organic mulches cost between $30 to $150 per cubic yard, depending on the type.
Mulch Improves the Appearance of Your Lawn or Garden
One of the most common reasons for installing mulch in landscaped beds is to boost curb appeal in addition to the other benefits it offers. The difference in cost varies widely here: Cypress mulch provides a high-end look and will set you back about $110 per cubic yard, while red-dyed chips will also update the look but at the cost of just $35 per cubic yard.
Mulching: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
Mulch is undoubtedly one of the more straightforward DIY projects a homeowner can undertake. It’s not difficult to spread out chips or shredded bark beneath the shrubs and bushes in a landscaped bed, after all. But it can be difficult for a homeowner to estimate the amount of mulch they’ll need, especially if they have a lot of space that needs to be mulched or irregularly shaped garden beds. Not to mention that mulch is heavy: Just one bag of mulch can weigh 20 pounds. A landscaping professional can determine the type of mulch that’s best suited for the home and budget, calculate how much mulch will be needed, order and handle the heavy bags of mulch, and evenly apply it.
If you want to DIY the mulch application, however, you’ll probably still want to purchase and have the mulch delivered in bulk to get the best price. A bag of pine chips typically costs $4 and covers about 8 square feet, whereas a cubic yard of pine chips covers approximately 108 square feet at a depth of 3 inches and costs $30.
How to Save Money on Mulch
Adding mulch to planted beds and gardens will save money on watering and save time spent pulling weeds, but many would also like to save money on the mulch itself. These tips will help you keep the project within budget.
- Opt for a less expensive type of mulch. By selecting a cheaper mulch, like inorganic wood chips for about $30 per cubic yard, you’ll save on the cost of the entire project.
- DIY the mulch installation. To save the most, you’ll still want to have mulch delivered in bulk, and delivery charges run about $220 for loads of 1 to 15 cubic yards of mulch.
- Choose dyed mulch. While redwood mulch adds a lovely reddish hue, it runs from $60 to $75 per cubic yard. Red dyed mulch creates a similar look at just $35 per cubic yard.
Questions to Ask Your Mulch Supplier
For the best mulching job results, ask the mulch supplier or landscaping company a few questions first.
- Are there any added fees? If the supplier charges an extra fee for delivering to your home because it’s outside their standard delivery area, you’ll want to know up front.
- Are you running any specials right now? Or soon? Some suppliers or companies will run occasional specials, and by timing it right, you could save some money.
- How long has the mulch been sitting? If wood-based mulch has been sitting in a bin or a pile for several months, it may begin to compost, so make sure the supplier is selling only the freshest mulch.
Adding mulch around the base of plants and trees is a common practice that offers many benefits, including water conservation and weed reduction. Still, those who are new to the idea of tackling mulching projects likely have some questions.
Q: Is it cheaper to buy mulch in bulk or bags?
Typically, it’s cheaper to buy mulch in bulk. Of course, if you only need to mulch a tiny spot, buying it in bags is fine.
Q: How long will my mulch last?
Biodegradable mulch like wood will eventually degrade. Many businesses and homeowners replace biodegradable mulch once per year, often at the start of the summer. Rubber mulch won’t degrade and can last up to 13 years.
Q: Should I remove old mulch before installing a new batch?
That depends on the level of the old mulch. If it’s settled down, you may not need to remove it, but consider the finished level after adding another 3 inches. If the finished level would be too high for your tastes, rake off the old mulch before installing the new mulch.