Mulch Matters

Mulch keeps moisture in the soil and moderates soil temperature. It also reduces erosion and weeds. Mulch is often sold in bags, by the yard or by the truckload. Organic mulches produced by nature make an attractive, natural mulch and are free! Think of it as nature’s great design for low-maintenance, free root protection. Mulch is a great option for preventing bare spots from foot traffic and keeping soil in place, but should not be placed in areas where runoff from storms will wash the mulch away.

Mulch: How much do you need?

By the bag:
1 bag containing 2 cubic feet covers 8 square feet (2 ft. X 4 ft.)

By the bale:
1 bale of pine straw covers 18 to 20 square feet.

By the yard:
1 cubic yard covers 108 square feet (9 ft. x 12 ft.)

By the truckload:
1 mini pickup holds 1½ yards and covers 162 square feet (9 ft. x 18 ft.)                                              1 full-sized pickup holds 2½ yards and covers 270 square feet (9 ft. x 30 ft.)

If you are buying bags containing 2 cubic feet of mulch, you can use the following chart to determine how many bags you need:

Size of plant bed   Depth of mulch
in square feet (sq. ft.)   2 inches 3 inches 4 inches
25 sq. ft.   2 bags 3 bags 4 bags
50 sq. ft.   4 bags 6 bags 9 bags
100 sq. ft.   9 bags 13 bags 17 bags


Univ. of Illinois Extension – Mulching:

Kansas State University. – Tips on Applying Mulch:

 My Backyard measures for scorecard:

  • Create self-mulching areas under trees where leaves can stay where they fall. Credit = 3 inches
  • Use fallen leaves and pine needles as mulch under trees and shrubs. They make an attractive, natural mulch and are free. If you have more than you can use, share them with a friend or neighbor. Credit = 3 inches
  • Maintain a 2 to 3-inch layer of organic mulch over the roots of trees, shrubs, and in plant beds. Remember to leave at least a hand’s width of space between the mulch and the plant’s trunk or stem. Avoid making mulch volcanoes.  Credit = 4 inches
  • Prevent erosion and soil loss by applying mulch to areas where lawn will not thrive, such as gentle slopes and high traffic areas of your yard. Credit = 2 inches


VCE Publication 430-019: Selection and Use of Mulches and Landscape Fabrics

VCE Publication 426-724: Mulching for a Healthy Landscape

VCE Publication 430-521: “Leave” Them Alone: Lawn Leaf Management

Loudoun County Extension MG Brochure: Stop Mulch Volcanoes!