When Do You Mulch and What Do You Mulch?

You are currently viewing When Do You Mulch and What Do You Mulch?

Like me, you’ve probably already seen them ominously surrounding your local home improvement center. It seems that they appeared overnight; standing in silent rows and columns, and wearing drapes of plastic with an alphanumeric code spray painted across the front. Elsewhere, perhaps at your grocery store, pallets of bagged goods line the apron and sidewalk. Roving pickups pulling trailers, piled high with some substance covered by a tarp, cruise the streets of our neighborhoods. Flyers and business cards begin to litter front doors and stoops and porches. The signs are all around us. The beginning of the onslaught is nigh!


Unfortunately there are only a few ways that I am able to tune out the annual nine month reminder (everywhere I look) that I need to mulch. Do it, or pay someone else to do it. Once I decide on that, other questions arise…

Color. Type. Quality. Quantity. How do I get it home? How do I get rid of the old mulch? Where can I get the best deal? Why do I need to make this so complicated? Where are my glasses?

How Is Mulch Used?

Mulch is used as a ground cover for landscapes. It is used to control weeds, soil moisture and evaporation. It can help control erosion, and conserve water. Cosmetically, it adds color and texture to your yard. With some creativity, borders and pathways can be created as well.
How to apply landscape mulch

How Should Mulch Be Applied?

Mulch should be applied to a depth of three inches in beds and around trees. Be careful though, if you are applying it near your foundation, be sure to leave several inches exposed below the brick. High soil over the brick line can bring water or unwanted pests into your home. Also, avoid building “volcanoes” around trunks and stems. That can starve the plant of water and nutrients. Clean out your beds annually; don’t keep piling new mulch on top of old. Not only does this cause you to exceed the three inch rule, it can promote fungus growth, and possibly kill most of the stuff you just planted for spring.

You really only need a good rake, your hands, and some time to apply it. After cleaning out the old, (lawn and garden waste bags are a must), I dump 2-3 new bags in one spot and spread it out to that magic 3 inch depth. I don’t actually measure, but if it looks right, it probably is. Next, I bag up the trash, and any errant mulch on my lawn and driveway, and I’m almost done! My last step is to take the old material to my local landfill transfer center where they have a yard waste recycling pile.

What Type Should I Use?

In most cases, bagged mulch is of a higher quality than bulk. It is processed in a facility with quality controls in place to standardize color and size. The product is “cleaner” as well, having less trash (paper, plastic, metal, etc.) contained within. I also find that bagged is easier to move around efficiently by hand, and that I can always get extra to match what I have.

Wood mulch is the most common type found in residential applications, as it is relatively inexpensive and breaks down over 1-2 seasons. Typical color options are black, brown and red. As an added bonus, it will add nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.

Inorganic, or rubber mulch, is a more permanent type, as it degrades much more slowly. It does not offer any nutrients to the landscape, but it may deter insects and termites. Rubber mulch is a great choice for playgrounds and pathways.

How Many Bags Do I Need?

Typically covering about 6 square feet, each bag weighs about 20 pounds. Be careful though; when the mulch inside is wet, the weight can almost double. Regardless, it adds up fast! Don’t be afraid to ask about delivery, or to make multiple trips to the store in order to avoid overloading your vehicle. Some big box stores even offer rental trucks for a moderate fee. When handling the bags, the tendency is to grab and pull on the corners, guaranteeing a rip and a mess. Instead, grip the bag at its midpoint and lift.


Finally, I can ignore the incessant reminders of the annual mulch ritual that we, as homeowners, endure. My weekends are now free to do as my wife wishes…most likely home maintenance, home improvement, and more yardwork. SIGH.
Kelly Lamont
Latest posts by Kelly Lamont (see all)

Kelly Lamont

As a self proclaimed Jack of All Trades, Kelly has a background in architecture and construction science with forays into mechanics, machining and motorsports. Kelly lives in Collin County with his wife of 24 years, and is currently working towards his professional real estate inspector license.

Leave a Reply