How To Apply Mulch Properly – A Simple Guide

Last Update:
This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links we may be compensated. More info.

Mulching your garden sounds simple, and generally, it is. But, if you do it incorrectly you may not get the full benefits that mulch can bestow on your garden!

Mulch can help the soil conserve water, improve its quality, protect the roots from extreme temperatures, and slow down the growth of weeds. But it also looks great and adds color and texture to the flower beds and other points of interest in your garden.

Let’s take a look at how to spread mulch properly and make sure your garden gets the full benefits of that lovely mulch.

how to spread mulch

How Much Mulch Should You Buy?

Leftover mulch is a pain to get rid of, and running out of mulch half way through the job is almost just as annoying! So, before you do anything else, you need to work out how much mulch you need for your garden.

Use our handy tables below, or do the calculation manually.

You can click the image to load a larger version for printing or download.

The manual calculation is done in three steps:

Part 1: Garden Bed Square Footage

Work out the length and width of your garden bed. If you don’t have a tape measure, then you can use the rough estimate of 1 stride = 2.5ft.

Multiply the width and length of your garden bed (in feet).

Width x Length = Square footage

Part 2: How Deep Will Your Mulch Be?

The next part of the calculation is working out how deep your mulch will be.

If you lay your mulch too thinly, weeds will easily push through. If you lay it too thickly then water will have trouble penetrating through to the soil.

Generally, you will want your mulch to be between 2-4 inches deep. But it will depends on the type of mulch being used. If you are unsure, 2 inches of mulch depth is usually great.

So we want to then multiply our required square footage by how deep we want the mulch to be (inches).

Square Footage x Mulch Depth (inches)

Part 3: Calculate Cubic Yards Required

Answer From Part 2 / 324 = Cubic Yards Required

This will give you your answer of how many cubic yards of mulch you need to order.

But what if I am buying my mulch in bags? Well that’s no problem either!

For 2 cubic ft bags: (Cubic Feet x 27) / 2 = Bags Required

For 3 cubic ft bags: (Cubic Feet x 27) / 3 = Bags Required

When To Put Mulch Down

You can lay mulch at any time of the year without causing too many problems, but the best time to lay mulch is mid to late spring.

Mid-Late Spring

The rains that come with spring make it a great time to spread mulch. The rain penetrates the mulch and into your soil, where it can be soaked up before the dry season

The fresh coat of mulch will help protect your garden bed from the hottest weather and keep your plants healthy.

Don’t mulch too early in spring, or it will slow down the soil warming process which occurs after winter.

How To Mulch Your Garden

1. Prepare the area

If you are mulching for weed control, pull the weeds from the area and enrich the soil as you are turning it over. Also, remove the dead leaves and trimmings.

To prevent it from spilling onto the walkways, you need a 2-3-inch trench or some garden edging around the lawn perimeter.

Remove any larger sticks or debris to ensure you get a smooth finish to your mulch.

If you arent sure how much mulch you need, here is a mulch calculator you can use.

Not sure what type of mulch you need? Read our full guide on the types of mulch here.

2. Get Ready For Delivery

large delivery of mulch

Depending on the size of the area to be mulched, you may be getting quite a large delivery of mulch to your property.

Ensure you have picked an area for the delivery to be dumped – make sure it is easily accessible by the truck.

If you are dumping the mulch onto your lawn, place a tarpaulin for the mulch to be dumped on to ensure easy clean-up.

3. Edge Your Garden

garden edging

This is a whole topic in itself, but the importance of clearly marking the edges of your garden cannot be understated.

Edging your garden before mulching gives you a clear spot to finish spreading your mulch and to ensure it doesnt spread onto areas it shouldn’t.

Edging can be as simple as digging a small trench that is 3-4 inches wide and about 2 inches deep around the area, or you may decide to actually install some physical garden edging.

4. Lay The Mulch

spreading mulch in garden
  • Load your mulch into a wheelbarrow with a pitchfork. If you haven’t got a pitchfork, then a shovel or spade will be fine.
  • Dump the mulch in small piles around the area you want it spread.
  • Use a steel tine rake to spread the mulch evenly. Spread towards the other piles you have placed down. You should spread the mulch to a depth of about 2-4 inches.
  • Spread towards trees and bushes, but leave an inch or so gap from the actual trunk of the plant. This avoids problems with disease, rot, and insects.
  • Continue this until your area is completely mulched.
  • Clean up any that has gone over the edging with a leaf blower.
Photo of author
Aaron Green
Aaron is the founder of and Essential Home and Garden. He likes to spend his spare time with his family, and doing DIY projects in the home and garden.

2 thoughts on “How To Apply Mulch Properly – A Simple Guide”

  1. Avatar photo

    Thank you for the great article! I must admit i do get a bit lazy with my mulching but will need to change that.

    • Aaron Green

      Hi Kelly, thanks for the comment. Im glad you found the article of some use!

Leave a Comment