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This home depot mulch calculator makes it easy to answer a common question when you are adding the final touches to your landscaping job - "How much mulch do I need?". Use our mulch estimator to get the answer and save yourself from having to make another trip to the garden center!

If you stay with us longer, we will also answer some cardinal questions concerning mulch, like "What is mulch?", "How many bags of mulch are in a yard?", "How much does a bag of mulch weigh?" and "How much does garden mulch cost?".

We will also provide you with the mulch definition, talk about the advantages of different mulch colors and discuss various types of mulch. Did you know that mulch (playground mulch, to be more specific) can protect not only your plants but also your children? For a more curious reader, we have also prepared examples of many mulch alternatives.

If you are in the middle of building your very own house, you have to check out our concrete calculator, which tells you how many bags of cement you really need!

What is mulch? – mulch definition

Mulch is a material that we put on soil to preserve its moisture, prevent the growth of unwanted plants or weeds, and improve the aesthetic value of the covered area. Home depot mulch is usually made from wood chips, but there are many other types of mulch and mulch alternatives. It is much harder for water to evaporate from soil covered with mulch as it prevents the sunlight from reaching the soil surface. However, a mulch layer that is too thick may also make it impossible for rainwater to soak into the ground. Thus, a typical mulch layer should be about 2 inches.

Mulch also retains heat that would be lost during cold nights and keeps your plants warm. Overall, mulch improves soil productivity. Gardeners like mulch for its ability to prevent the growth of weeds, as their seeds are left without sunlight after sprouting, halting their development. What's more, many people like to use mulch in their gardens to make the landscape more beautiful. Mulch is available in many forms and colors, so it is suitable for any setting.

If you want to grow some plants in pots, visit our potting soil calculator to see how much potting soil you should buy.

Types of mulch

Many materials are traditionally used as mulch, and there are also lots of mulch alternatives. Here, we present the characteristics of different types of mulch:

  • Woodchip mulch – it is created when tree branches or larger stems are chipped. Cedar mulch and cypress mulch are examples of such products. Cedar mulch tends to be a little reddish but can be easily dyed into various other colors. Cypress mulch is very attractive for its blond color. Woodchip mulch can also be made by processing used packaging pallets. As you may have guessed, this version is much cheaper.

  • Wood bark mulch – this is made from tree bark. The advantages of bark mulch is its natural color and look. Bark fragments are very irregular, and the degree of randomness can create random interesting shapes and figures. By selecting pieces of bark mulch of specific sizes, you can change the speed of its decay. The smaller the chips of bark mulch are, the faster they will decompose.

  • Straw mulch – well known for its ability to retain heat. You can use it to protect your plants (for example, vegetables) from the cold. Straw mulch is also very cheap and easily exchangeable. As it is available in many different colors, you can create some gorgeous compositions with it.

  • Sawdust mulch – probably the most economical choice. Its particles are tiny and delicate so they may be vulnerable to some weather conditions. Furthermore, an owner of a garden mulched with sawdust mulch will need to add some nitrogen (maintaining the correct ratio) to the sawdust mulch mixture. Otherwise, it will not decompose or, even worse – steal the nitrogen from your plants!

  • Plastic mulch – used mainly in large-scale plants growing. Every plant has its own hole in the plastic cover through which it can grow.

  • Rubber mulch – made from recycled tires. It has enormous insulating properties. Soil mulched with rubber mulch will stay warmer for a much longer time. It will also be better moisturized. Rubber mulch is also a perfect choice for children's playgrounds. Because of that, it is often called playground mulch. Thanks to its elasticity, playground mulch can absorb more energy and therefore protect your child from getting hurt when they fall on the ground.

If you are still looking for other materials that can be used as mulch, go to the mulch alternatives paragraph. We hope you will find your answers there!

Which mulch color to choose? Black mulch, red mulch or maybe brown mulch?

After we have chosen one of the types of mulch, we need to select a color that matches the style of your yard. There are three main mulch color types available:

  • Black mulch – its color lasts for a very long time, and it looks very nice with green foliage. If your house has grey or white walls, it is the mulch for you. However, it may not be a good choice for delicate plants in areas with a high chance of many hot days over a year. Black mulch retains more heat which can lead to your precious flowers overheating.

  • Brown mulch – it works very well with red brick houses. Any plant will appear charming, as brown mulch looks very natural. It is so universal, and you cannot really go wrong with it. The only downside is that its color loses intensity over time and may require renovation.

  • Red mulch – it looks elegant and exquisite. Because of that, it is often used in public areas and business zones. In a backyard setting, it will go well with light plants and rocks or gravel. Be careful, though, as red mulch may stain your pavement!

How much mulch do I need?

The first step in any mulching endeavor is establishing the volume of mulch needed. This is the volume of the desired mulch layer, and, in the case of the most typical rectangular area, you can determine it in the following way:

  1. Find the length and the width of the mulch layer. For example, we can assume that its length is l = 6 yd and width is w = 3 yd.

  2. Calculate the area that you want to cover with mulch by multiplying the length by the width. In our case, A = 6 × 3 = 18 yd². You can also type the area of the mulch layer directly into the mulch estimator if you want to cover an area of some more sophisticated shape. We've got calculators to help you find the areas of many different geometric figures, such as a hexagon or a pentagon.

  3. Determine the thickness (depth) of the mulch layer. Let's say it's d = 2 in.

  4. Multiply the area and depth of the mulch layer to obtain its volume:

    18 yd² × 2 in (0.056 yd) = 1 yd³ = 27 ft³.

  5. The volume of mulch required is equal to the volume of the mulch layer. Our home depot mulch calculator will display this value for you.

In our calculator, you can input a predetermined area without having to calculate it. If you don't know the area, don't worry – we've got you covered! You can use the calculator to do the estimations mentioned above in this paragraph and even choose a different shape if you're not going for a rectangle. To do so, use the advanced mode.

If you are also going to buy sand for your garden, try our sand calculator.

How many bags of mulch are in a yard?

Bag sizes vary according to the type of mulch, but the industry standard is two cubic feet. One cubic yard is twenty-seven cubic feet, so there are fourteen standard bags in each cubic yard.

With our home depot mulch calculator, you can calculate the number of bags that you need to buy for your project. Input the volume of the mulch bags you intend to buy into the Bag size field. Our mulch estimator will use the value for the amount of mulch needed and divide it by the volume of one bag. This will allow you to find how many bags of mulch you should buy.
Now, you know not only how many bags are in a yard but how many bags are in your yard!

How much does a bag of mulch weigh?

A standard two cubic feet bag of wood mulch weighs around 20 pounds. But watch out! Its weight will increase when it's soaked with water. If you acquire the weight of one bag of mulch, our mulch calculator will help you find the weight of any number of bags.

To calculate the weight of all the bags of mulch you need, type in the weight of one bag. This mulch calculator will use the number of bags of mulch required for your project and give you the total weight of the mulch. Please keep in mind that you should round the estimated number of bags up if it is not a whole number.

How much does home depot mulch cost?

Once you determine the weight of the material, you can use our mulch calculator to find out how much you will pay for your purchase. Mulch costs between $2 to around $7 per bag depending on its quality, density, source material, and aesthetic values. Simply enter the price of one bag of mulch and let the mulch estimator calculate the value for you. Remember to buy some extra material to allow for small modifications of the project.

Mulch estimator - how to calculate garden mulch quantity?

Let’s deal with a real-life situation. Imagine that you have just built your beautiful house. If the roof still needs to be done, check out our roofing calculator. They will help you finish it quickly and cost-effectively. It would be a shame if you bought too much roofing or, even worse – not enough materials and have to go back to home depot. What is your dream roof? We find the traditional warm red roof tile roofs very classy.

Now, back to the yard. Let's say you would like to surround your house with a grass yard and pavement made of tiles. To calculate the number of tiles you need to buy before work commences, we recommend you to visit our tile calculator. It will even account for possible tile waste!

On one side of the grass yard, you want to dig a pool, while on the other, you would like to plant some bushes, shrubs, and maybe even one or two trees. You have already bought soil and plants, so your mind is on the mulch purchase (which is probably what brought you here in the first place). It is a good investment; mulch will not only keep the moisture inside your soil but also prevent the growth of any unwanted weeds. It will also be quite pretty. We want to calculate the required quantity and cost of garden mulch. As you can see, we cannot just type the width and length of the area that we want to cover with mulch into our gravel estimator as it has a very irregular shape. How to deal with this problem?

Plan of a typical yard.
  1. First, we need to divide the area that we want to cover with mulch into four geometric figures: A, B, C, and D.

  2. Now, we have to take the measurements of each sector:

    • Sector A is a rectangle with a width of 1 yd and a length of 10 yds;

    • Sector B is a right triangle, and its catheti (the two sides creating a 90-degree angle) have lengths of 5 yds and 6 yds;

    • Sectors C and D are the same circles, each with a radius of 1.5 yds.

  3. Let's calculate the area of each sector:

    • Sector A: the area is equal to 1 yd multiplied by 10 yd, which gives 10 yd².

    • Sector B: the area of a right triangle is equal to half of the product of the lengths of its catheti. In this case, it is 5 yd multiplied by 6 yds and divided by 2, which gives 15 yd².

    • Sector C and D: the area of a circle is equal to πr², where r is the radius of the circle. As we have measured, the radius of both our circles is 1.5 yds. When we put it into this equation, we will get approximately 7.1 yd².

  4. Now, we have to sum up these four different areas:

    10 yd² + 15 yd² + 7.1 yd² + 7.1 yd² = 39.2 yd²

    From this point on, we can use our mulch calculator! (see the instruction in how much mulch do I need? paragraph.)

  5. It is time to choose the desired thickness (depth) of the mulch level. Let's make it 1 inch. We need to ensure that the mulch layer will be thick enough so that the earth underneath it will not be visible. Furthermore, the thicker the mulch layer is, the better it will keep the water inside the soil, and the longer it will last. A thick mulch layer will be more resilient to the wind, heavy rain, and even your pets 😉.

  6. You can calculate the required volume of mulch by multiplying the acquired area by the desired thickness of the garden mulch level:

    39.2 yd² × 1 inch (0.028 yd) = 1.089 yd³ = 29.4 ft³

  7. Knowing the volume of one bag of mulch, we can calculate how many bags we will have to buy. Maybe it will make it easier for you to imagine how much space the bags will take up in your trunk. If your garden is very large, maybe you will end up with a truckload of mulch!
    29.4 ft³ / 2 ft³ = 14.7 bags
    In this case, it seems that you will have to buy 15 bags with some to spare. You can return to the how many bags of mulch are in a yard? paragraph for more instructions.

  8. The last things to assess are the mulches' estimated weight and cost. Knowledge of the weight of the cargo may come in handy when it comes to transportation; it would be nice to know that your truck or trailer will endure the burden of your purchase. Check the weight of one bag of mulch; the information may be written on the bag. If it isn't, ask a store employee to help you. You need to multiply the weight of one bag by the number of bags. You can return to the how much does a bag of mulch weigh? paragraph for more details.

  9. And last but not least – money. Can you afford such an expense? Maybe you could save some money by reducing the thickness? To know that, you need to calculate the total cost. With our home depot mulch calculator, you can do this by multiplying the number of bags by the price of one bag of mulch. You can use our mulch estimator to deal with these calculations. For more information, go back to the how much does home depot mulch cost? section.

Mulch alternatives

Wood chips or bark are not the only materials that can serve the function of mulch. As we have discussed the various functions of mulch in the what is mulch? – mulch definition section, here we have provided a list of mulch alternatives:

  • Compost – did you know that you can use compost as mulch? It will not only help the soil retain moisture and prevent weed growth but also provide the ground beneath it with essential nutrients. This helping hand will ensure your plants grow even faster. The downside of compost mulching is that bag of compost may cost twice as much as a traditional mulch bag. But there is a solution! You can produce your own compost from leaves, cut grass, and other organic residues. Uneaten and rotten food will be perfect as well. If you want a fully functional mulch to save some money and protect the environment, this is the solution for you!

  • Cardboard or newspapers – a practical addition to your mulch layer – if you place under another mulching material, you will significantly reduce the required thickness of the whole mulch layer. Please keep in mind that this mulch may have a downside – if you intend to plant after mulching, you are going to have a bad time. The plants will not have the extra force required to get through the cardboard layer.

  • Carpet – it kept our feet warm before; now it keeps our plants warm! The fibers of the carpet will also absorb rainwater and then release it slowly into the soil. Please note that you should use only natural, organic rugs in this manner.

  • Rocks and gravel – in this case, saying "stone cold" may be very misguiding. Rocks have the ability to retain heat and give it back to the soil later, thus keeping your plants warmer for longer.

Kacper Pawlik, MD, Piotr Małek and Maria Kluziak
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