What Type of Mulch Is Right for You?

Lucy Mercer
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Mulch | The Home Depot's Garden Club

Mulch is an unassuming product, but it packs a lot of power. Mulch in the landscape conserves moisture, deters weed growth, improves soil health, and protects plants from pests, diseases and weather extremes. All that, and it looks good while doing it, too.

There are two basic kinds of mulch: organic mulches made from wood, and permanent mulches made of rubber.

Wood mulches need to be applied annually because they break down, benefiting the soil and plants.

Rubber mulches will not break down and affect the soil, which is a benefit in certain situations. It will need to be replaced much less frequently and is ideal in low-maintenance locations.

When choosing mulch, placement is key. Looking to boost your home’s curb appeal this spring? Mulch gives a neater, more polished look to a landscape, like a frame on a painting. Consider red, black or brown mulches to set off your plantings and make them pop. 

In a vegetable or flower garden, a fluffy layer of shredded straw or bark keeps weeds down and allows plants to thrive. As the material decomposes over time, it adds nutrients to the soil.

In a playscape, mulches cushion landing areas, improve drainage, and prevent erosion.

Consider texture when purchasing mulch. A finer shred will decompose more quickly, and as a result, will need to be replaced more frequently. The coarser nuggets last longer.

Keep in mind that several brands carried by The Home Depot offer a 12-month color guarantee. 

For a little more money, invest in rubber mulches, which carry a color guarantee, too. They will not deteriorate and are guaranteed not to fade for 12 years. These mulches are low-maintenance and effective.

More details about the mulch varieties available at The Home Depot are in our mulch buying guide

For most applications, a 3-inch layer of mulch is all that’s needed. With a new plantscape, consider applying weed preventer, then landscape fabric, then the mulch.

There’s no need to pile up extra mulch around tree trunks. In fact, too much mulch there leads to problems with pests and rot. 

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How much mulch Do you need?

The Home Depot makes it easy to determine how much mulch you need with its Mulch & Top Soil Calculator. You can pace off the garden area, or measure it with a tape. Just plug the numbers into the calculator to determine the number of bags you will need.

If you don’t have a measuring tape handy, visualize two pallets side by side and compare that to the size of the garden space. Two pallets side by side equals 24 cubic feet of mulch.

What if you need a lot of mulch, like a truckload? For large jobs, buying in bulk is more economical than buying individual bags of mulch. Bulk mulch is sold by the cubic yard and can be delivered to your home or any job site in quantities from 5 to 25 cubic yards. Delivery is available in select states. Learn more about purchasing bulk mulch at The Home Depot here

And remember that with a chipper/shredder and a bit of wooded land, it’s easy enough to make your own mulch. Just shred downed trees and limbs, mixing in shredded leaves and grass clippings for a decomposable mulch. Fresh mulch should smell like just-cut wood, not sour. Mulch stored in a pile should be turned every two weeks to keep it from spoiling.

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