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National average
(bark mulch application for 500 square feet)
Low: $100

(shredded mulch application)

High: $500

(gravel and landscape cloth application)

Cost to use mulch varies greatly by region (and even by zip code).
Get free estimates from landscapers in your city.

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National average
(bark mulch application for 500 square feet)
Low: $100

(shredded mulch application)

High: $500

(gravel and landscape cloth application)

Cost to use mulch varies greatly by region (and even by zip code).
Get free estimates from landscapers in your city.

The average cost to put down mulch is $200.

How Much Does It Cost to Put Down Mulch?

Mulching involves placing a layer of protective material over the soil in your yard or garden. Mulching helps the soil retains moisture and controls the garden bed’s temperature. Mulch 1 looks more attractive and prevents weeds. Adding mulch to a garden is typically an early spring chore, but mulch improves a landscape year-round.

The average cost for a professional landscaper to put down 500 square feet of bark mulch is $200.

Why Use Mulch?

First and foremost, mulching helps with moisture retention. Keeping the soil moist is critical—especially in a drought. Furthermore, mulch improves plant growth conditions by insulating the roots and keeping the ground temperature regulated. During poor weather, the mulch also minimizes soil compaction caused by rain.

Mulch acts as a protectant to stop weeds from sprouting. If weeds happen to grow through the mulch, they are much easier to remove. New plants benefit greatly from mulch since the roots are delicate and fragile. Protect new plants with a fresh layer of mulch during the fall to help them survive colder temperatures.

Organic mulch provides extra benefits to the soil. Mulch from all-natural materials, such as wood chips and grass clippings, break down over time and contribute to the overall health of the soil. Insects and worms consume the mulch and will add their byproducts back into the dirt. Certain types of organic mulches, such as cedar and cypress, also prevent infestations of predator bugs such as gnats, fleas, and ticks.

Mulch improves the overall look of the landscape. If you plan to use mulch exclusively for curb appeal, then synthetic mulches may be a better option. Synthetic mulch requires little to no maintenance and contains dyes that enhance its appearance.


To prepare a garden for mulching, you can do a few simple outdoor chores.The following should be done before applying your mulch:

  • Measure the garden to determine how much mulch is needed. A layer of mulch should be at least 3 inches deep to protect the soil. Keep in mind that each cubic yard covers 324 square feet of soil per inch deep.
  • Weed the area. Remove weeds by hand or use a handheld weeder tool. Weed killers may be used on the soil prior to mulch being spread. Organic weed control products are preferred and cost between $25 and $50 per container.
  • Fertilize the soil. Apply fertilizers as directed prior to mulch applications.
  • Remove any existing mulch. You may wish to get rid of pre-existing mulch if using a different type.

Types of Mulch

Mulch is constructed from both synthetic and organic materials. Benefits of each range from insect protection to increased curb appeal. Cedar, bark, and redwood 2 mulches will be the most costly. These organic options protect the soil, improve the health of the garden, and have a pleasing look and aroma. Synthetic mulch comes from man-made materials and will not break down into the soil over time. Homeowners looking for a cost-effective option may choose synthetic types.


The following are the most common types of organic mulch to choose for your landscaping.


Average cost per cubic yard

Pine/Hay straw

Easy to spread

Stops water evaporation

Sold in bales for easy application

Shredded hardwood

Constructed from lumber byproducts

Shredded for easy spreading

Increases soil pH

Bark mulch

Sourced from tree bark

Longer lasting than shredded mulch

Easy to spread

Hemlock mulch

Ornamental plant use only

Toxic to animals and humans if consumed

Attractive burgundy color

Redwood mulch

Improves soil fertility

Blend of redwood chips and shavings

Attractive deep red color

Cedar mulch

Sourced from cedar tree bark

Dense and heavy

Best for larger trees and plants



The following synthetic mulch options are made from non-organic materials and will not impact soil composition or require additional maintenance.

NameCharacteristicsAverage cost per cubic yard

Made from recycled material

Easy to install

Good for gardens and playgrounds


Thick and hearty material

No holes unless done by hand

Protects roots from damage


Rocks and gravel enhance landscape

Allow for water and airflow

Prevents most weed growth


Mulching Process

Mulch installation depends on the type selected. Some types, like hay, are placed down by hand using gloves for protection. Landscape covers and plastic wraps are applied over the soil and secured with topsoil. However, most organic soils are spread out evenly over an area using shovels.

In addition to the price of materials, homeowners must factor in labor costs and if any special equipment, such as chippers, grinders, and spreaders, are required for installation. Although a shovel and rake are acceptable for small areas, spreaders are often used to cover larger square footage. In some cases, landscapers require chippers and grinders to break apart any roots in the soil.

The best time of year to mulch is the late spring and early summer. Mulch helps plants thrive as temperatures warm up. However, an extra layer of mulch in the fall prolongs the benefits by keeping the soil moist and warm.


Landscapers are best for professional mulch applications. A landscaper knows exactly how much mulch is needed to cover an area. The professional can also make recommendations on the best types of mulch for curb appeal and improved plant growth. Most importantly, professionals arrange for pickup and delivery of the mulch. For large jobs, a truck with a pickup bed is required for transportation.

Landscapers charge either by the hour or by the cubic yard for mulch applications. Installations by cubic yard will range between $25 and $50. In addition to this rate, a fee of $70 may be charged for mulch delivery. For an hourly rate, a landscaper may charge $55 to $75 per hour for a two-man crew. For a 500 square foot area, you can expect the job to take around two hours to complete. This includes planning, application, and equipment handling. Two hours of labor will cost you upwards of $110.

For small mulching jobs, you may be charged less if fewer workers are required on site. Landscaping is a seasonal job, so you may find lower quoted labor costs during the fall and winter months.

Mulch Delivery

Delivery costs must be evaluated, too, and are a separate charge from installation fees. Mulch is sold in large and very heavy bags. An average bag of mulch weighs 20 pounds and will cover approximately 200 square feet. For large landscaping projects, you may need upwards of 10 bags of mulch. Companies charge either a flat fee for delivery or charge per yard. An average flat fee for mulch delivery is around $70, while an average per yard mulch delivery fee is $20. A company may have an extra fee of $1 per mile or more for those outside of their designated delivery areas.


Synthetic mulch like rocks and gravel require very little maintenance. Most homeowners simply pull out weeds and add in new rocks as needed. For organic types of mulches, extend the benefits by performing the following maintenance:

  • Turn over mulch as needed to break apart larger clumps. When mulch compresses, it blocks the rain and sunlight from the soil below.
  • Maintain a mulch layer at least 2 inches thick. Add new mulch as needed throughout the growing season.
  • Clear away mulch from direct contact with any plants. Mulch coming into direct contact with the stems may actually damage the plant.
  • Rake occasionally to pull out any weeds and debris from the garden bed.
  • Remove any weeds by hand to prevent them from spreading and harming your plants.
  • Prevent mulch from being rained out of your yard by creating a border around flower beds and sloped areas of your yard.

Enhancement and Improvement Costs

Landscape Fabric Under Stone Mulch

Landscape fabric is beneficial for placement under any stone or gravel. The material prevents rocks from entering the soil and getting lodged there. Landscape fabric prevents weed growth by blocking them from sprouting. Synthetic fabrics work better than the stone by itself at retaining moisture levels. Landscape cloth costs an average of $15 to $25 per cubic yard.

Additional Considerations and Costs

  • In most cases, you will not need to pay for any permits or licenses for mulch application. The only exception is for individuals who plan to produce compost and mulch on their premises.
  • Professional installations are preferred over DIY applications. Mulch applications are labor-intensive with each bag exceeding 20 pounds. The homeowner may do touch-up applications, but many individuals prefer to allow their landscapers handle any maintenance.
  • Never apply more than a 4-inch layer of mulch to garden beds. Too much mulch will block sunlight and water from reaching the roots.
  • Check for dyes before choosing any type of mulch for your yard. Research has shown that some of the chemicals in dyes react with the chemicals in certain woods and can produce toxins.
  • Compost can be used as mulch for gardens. Consisting of decayed organic matter, compost is high in nutrients for the soil. Worms and bugs help breakdown the compost and ready it for the soil.
  • Create an edge around garden beds to stop mulch being removed by the wind and rain.
  • Shop around for mulch prices. A landscaper may charge more for mulch than if you purchase it directly from a nursery or home improvement store.


  • Is it cheaper to buy mulch in bulk or bags?

Mulch costs less when sold in bulk amounts. Companies load the mulch directly into the truck bed and then deliver it without needing to bag the materials.

  • How much does a yard of mulch cover?

A cubic yard covers 324 square feet. One cubic yard is equivalent to approximately 13.5 bags of mulch.

  • What type of mulch is best?

Bark mulch is considered the best type of mulch. Although bark mulch has a higher average cost, it lasts longer than shredded types. Bark mulch is heavy—meaning it is less likely to get blown around. It improves the soil composition as it decomposes and make the area more fertile for new plants. The denser material is better for allowing sunlight and water to reach the soil beneath the layer.

  • How much should I pay for weeding?

In most cases, a homeowner hires a landscaper for a mulching and weeding job. With a two-man crew, one worker can prep the yard for the mulch by weeding while the other applies the mulch. On average, you will pay $45-75 and more per hour for landscaping jobs.

  • How many bags of mulch are on a pallet?

Home improvement and landscaping stores transport bags of mulch on pallets. On average, there are approximately 60 bags of mulch per pallet.

  • How much should I charge for mulching?

Landscapers can adjust their rates depending on the location of the job, time of year, and type of mulch used. On average, you will pay between $100 and $500 for mulching a property.

  • What can I use to mulch?

Mulching can be done with organic materials like hay, wood chips, and shredded lumber as well as non-organic materials such as gravel, landscape cloth, and plastic wrap.

  • Should I use cedar mulch?

Cedar mulch is considered one of the poorest choices for mulch. The wood has a reputation for harming plants and having the potential for toxicity. However, the beautiful appearance of cedar mulch makes it a good choice for ornamental purposes.

  • How much does mulch delivery cost?

Mulch delivery can cost a flat fee of $70 or a per yard fee of $20.​​

Was this guide helpful to you?

Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
1 Mulch: A natural substance derived from plant, animal, or mineral matter that is added to soil in order to make it more fertile
2 Redwood: Tree with reddish colored timber

Cost to use mulch varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

Gardener mulching flower bed with bark mulch

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