How to Figure Out How Much Mulch You Need

how much Mulch

We’ve already talked about why you should use mulch, but how do you know how much mulch your plants need? And with so many different kinds to choose from, how do you know which mulch you should buy? Let’s talk mulch!

How much mulch?

Try saying that five times fast. How much mulch you will need is based on the square footage you are trying to cover, the type of mulch you are using, and the depth of mulch. This is less complicated than it sounds, you can even use this “mulch calculator” to simplify the process. As far as depth is concerned, though, you will want 2-3 inches of mulch if it’s a finer mulch (no more than that!) and about 3-4 inches for more bulky mulch (no more than 6 inches).

As you can see, the biggest factor that determines how much mulch you need is the kind of mulch you are getting. If you’re having trouble deciding which mulch is best for you, here’s a chart comparing the different types:

Mulch Comparison Chart

Mulch TypesVarietiesDisadvantagesAdvantages
  • Cypress
  • Cedar
  • Eucalyptus
  • Hemlock
  • Redwood
  • Should be kept several inches away from house foundations and wooden structures.
  • Eucalyptus, cypress and cedar may not be available in all regions.
  • Attractive appearance.
  • Available in a variety of colors.
  • Fresh cedar, cypress and eucalyptus mulches have pleasant aromas and insect-repellent qualities.
  • Mini nuggets and shredded mulch are good choices for erosion control and water conservation.
Pine Straw
  • N/A
  • More difficult to apply because of its light weight.
  • Good choice for erosion control and water conservation.
  • Less likely to contain weed seeds.
  • Good choice for insulating plants from temperature extremes.
  • Attractive, reddish-brown appearance.
  • Long lasting.
  • Environmentally friendly.
Grain Straw
  • N/A
  • May contain weed seeds.
  • Unattractive appearance.
  • More difficult to apply because of its light weight.
  • Good choice for insulating garden plants from temperature extremes.
  • Great cover for seeded lawns.
  • Less expensive than other mulches.
  • N/A
  • Doesn’t decompose — gives nothing back to the soil.
  • Increases the safety of play areas — approved by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) when maintained at a 6-inch depth.
  • Looks natural.
  • Available in a variety of colors.
  • Low maintenance.
  • Retains color and lasts longer than other mulch types.
Chart courtesy of


Is mulch really necessary?

Mulch may seem “extra” and the sort of thing only lawn enthusiasts use, but mulch is a valuable lawn care tool for anyone who wants a generally nice-looking yard. Consider the fact that your plants’ root systems rely on healthy soil in order to grow properly. Mulch acts as an added layer of protection to your soil, lessening the effects of erosion, regulating soil temperature, and keeping the soil loose so that it can easily soak up rain and nutrients. Ultimately, investing in mulch and knowing how much mulch you need protects both your soil and your plants.