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mulch(TNS)—Nothing signals the return of spring like a smelly pile of mulch. Aside from its questionable stench, mulch plays an essential role in landscaping, from boosting curb appeal to retaining moisture and suffocating weeds. But before you hire a landscaper or get out the wheelbarrow, you’ll first need to decide how much mulch you need.

Bulk and bagged mulch:

  • Landscapers and garden centers sell mulch in bulk or by the bag. The most common size of bagged mulch is 2 cubic feet. Bulk mulch sells by the cubic yard. One cubic yard of mulch is equal to 13.5 bags of mulch.
  • When buying in bulk, you can have it delivered to your home, or pick it up if you have access to a truck or trailer. Expect to pay an additional $45 to $55 for mulch delivery.

Types of mulch:

  • Most mulch dealers sell their own mix of “economy mulch,” which is typically a low-end variety that costs $19 to $25 per yard, or $2 to $4 per bag. This is your best bet if you need a large quantity and aren’t too particular about the appearance.
  • Hardwood and dyed mulches typically cost $30 to $36 per yard, or $3 to $6 per bag. To give your landscaping an extra pop of color, consider buying black, red or gold mulch.
  • Premium mulches, such as those made from cedar or cypress trees, can cost $40 to $47 per yard, or $4 to $7 per bag. These mulches tend to last longer and are less likely to blow away in high winds.

Determining mulch quantity:

  • The Clemson University Cooperative Extension says one cubic yard of mulch will cover 324 square feet of ground at a depth of 1 inch. To determine how many cubic yards you need: Take the square footage of your garden bed and multiply it by the desired mulch depth and divide it by 324.

Mulch price comparison:

  • The following breakdown shows the price comparison for buying two yards of economy mulch at $22 per yard, or $2.50 per bag.
  • By the bag: 27 bags x $2.50 = $67.50
  • Bulk:2 cubic yards x $22 = $44
  • Bulk + delivery: 2 x $22 + $50 = $94

Additional mulch tips:

  • Add 2 to 3 inches of mulch to new beds, or 1 inch to existing beds.
  • Schedule your delivery on a weekday. Mulch companies say weekend delivery slots fill up fast.
  • Confirm consistency. Deals that sound too good to be true could signal the mulch company is trying to sell you an inferior product.
  • Use a tarp. Place a tarp on the ground to alert the delivery driver where to unload your mulch. It also keeps the mulch dry and makes for easier cleanup.

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