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Estimating Mulch*

*Shredded Hardwood mulch being applied in the Mid-Atlantic USA
Here is the EASY coefficient:

100 sq ft = 1 yard

The Mulch Estimator

Type the area to be covered , in Square Feet.
sq ft
(Use Horticultural Rounding when measuring your area.)

Now choose depth of fresh mulch, in inches.
inches
(If you think you just need a freshen up,
"2" is a good number to use here.

For most people,

most of the time,

1 square yard of mulch will cover
100 square feet of garden bed area
to a depth of 3 inches.

This "easy" math works for
areas less than 500 square feet.
Read further to understand why!

1 foot = 12 inches   (1' = 12")

1 cubic foot  =  12" x 12"x 12"
That is, 1 foot long by 1 foot wide, and 1 foot deep.

So, there are four (4) 3"-deep 1' by 1' squares in One Cubic Foot.

So, 1 cubic foot of material (mulch) spread 3 inches deep will cover
4 square feet. A 3-cubic foot bag will cover 12 square feet to a depth of 3 inces. A Cubic Yard (27 cubic feet) will cover 108 square feet to a depth of 3 inches.

How Much should I use ?
(Horticultural Rounding)

Measure your area loosely, using an arbitrary body part, and round every measurement to the nearest convenient number for the math you are going to perform. Then, take a good look at your bed and 'figure' how much of that area is actually occupied already (by , let's say...a shrub, or patch of ground cover...), and use that to decide wehter to get the extra mulch or buy short!

When applying the first-ever mulch to a newly created bed, you do want to lay a good 3-inches thick layer of mulch in the OPEN areas. Any mulching after the initial mulching should only be to replenish this covering. As you work your garden you will get a feel for how much to use in different areas. I stongly recommend no more than 2-inches near and directly under plants, and 3 inches only in "Wide-Open" areas. I also highly recomend you go light (an inch or just less) when applying mulch in the shade zone of shrubs or up against the trunk of a tree, so that the roots do not suffocate, and so that you do not invite molds.

Pros and cons of buying too much mulch:


By the straight math of it,
One Cubic Yard (27 cubic feet)
spread three inches deep
will cover 108 square feet
,

...so you can see that as you apprach the 500 square feet - or 5 cubic yard line - that extra 8-feet of bed area per cubic yard of mulch compounds to having almost a half cubic yard extra mulch!

This could be good or bad:

GOOD ...


If you have the space to keep a half yard of mulch (the equivilent of four or five 3-foot bags), I recommend you estimate heavey so that you know you have all the mulch you need to finish your job at one go of it - and also you pay for delivery only once. You then have a small supply to last you through your ensuing gardening activities and for "touch up" as needed through the year.

BAD...

If you don't have the space for the extra mulch, you will need to "hide" it. This means choosing an area of your garden which won't be ill-effected by a little extra depth. Choose a wide-open area, maybe a place that gets a lot of traffic!

BAGGED -vs- BULK

As a contractor, I am telling you that for 200 square feet and less, go bagged. You will be greatful for the time saved and the ease of the job.The cost of materials -vs- time spent doesn't weigh the balance in favor of bulk mulch until around 5 to 7 yards of mulch. 20 bags of mulch is a heavey load for a light duty pick-up truck. Depending on how close your nursery is, you might split your purchase into two trips. I strongly recomend 3-cubic foot bags. Buying the smaller 2-ft bags is a waste of money. The cost in bagged mulch is the plastic bag (petroleum product). In straight math, 9 bags (3-ft) is the equivilent of 27 cubic feet...or 1 cubic yard. In PRACTICE, count TEN bags per 1 cubic yard. If you are short on money and have plenty of time, go ahead with bulk. Delivery charges on the east coast range from $35 - $45 minimum (which is typically the cost of a yard or even a yard-and-a-half of mulch!), and a typical maximum load per delivery is 10 yards in dry months (sometimes only 7 or 8 yards in the wet season), so bear that in mind when planning your expenses. Call your nursery and ask!