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Must Know Tips for Laying Mulch

My husband and I are DIY landscapers. We don’t hire out yard work, opting to save money and do the work ourselves. Every spring, we spend an afternoon laying mulch in our garden beds. We’ve learned plenty of tips and tricks over the years for laying mulch, and I’m sharing them today!

What is Mulch?

Mulch is a material that’s laid over the top of the soil, usually wood chips or shreds, straw, or grass clippings. There are also inorganic mulch options like rubber mulch, rocks, or gravel. You can read all about the different types of mulch here.

We typically use hardwood bark, in either a black or brown color.

pinterest pin describing must know tips to lay mulch

Why lay mulch?

Mulch is a gardener’s best friend. Laying mulch is an initial investment of time and money, but it saves a lot of work throughout the growing season.

Mulch helps keep weeds from taking hold, which means less time spent weeding. It also holds moisture in the soil to help hydrate plants, which means less watering. Mulch can even prevent soil erosion.

Tips for Laying Mulch Yourself

Here are my best tips for laying mulch as DIY landscaper.

giant pile of mulch that we laid ourselves
Our giant pile of mulch that we used this spring.
  1. Shop around to compare prices on the type of mulch you want. Prices on mulch are like prices on anything else, they vary from store to store. If you’re laying mulch yourself to save money, then it makes sense to do your research when it comes to the cost of your materials.
  2. Buy mulch by the scoop instead of by the bag. In our city, mulch by the scoop (or cubic yard) is usually less expensive for the same amount in bags. We lay a tarp down in the driveway and have the mulch delivered onto the tarp. Caveat: Buying it by the scoop means that you’ll likely need a pitchfork and a wheelbarrow. The wheelbarrow helps you move the mulch from the big pile to different areas around the yard, and the pitchfork helps you fill up the wheelbarrow. It’s tempting to think you can use a shovel instead of a pitchfork, but trust me on this one, a pitchfork is much easier for filling up the wheelbarrow.
  3. Err on the side of buying too much mulch rather than not enough. Most garden stores have a handy calculator that can help you determine about how much you need. It’s best to overestimate instead of underestimate when it comes to buying. You don’t want to be short and then have to go back to buy more. In my experience, you can always find a spot to add on a little extra to use up the rest. Just be careful when adding extra that you don’t add too much. This website recommends 2-3 inch layer for fine mulch, and 4-5 inches for coarse mulch.
  4. Wear old shoes and clothes. Mulch has a way of getting on everything. By the end of an afternoon of mulching, my shoes and clothes are covered in dirt. It’s best if you don’t wear ones that you mind getting dirty.
  5. Use gardening gloves. Your hands will thank you.
  6. Take care of your back! All the lifting, hauling, and spreading can strain back muscles. Here are some specific tips from a pro on how to prevent back injuries while doing yard work.
  7. Lay weed preventer down with mulch. We always lay a granule weed preventer treatment down with mulch to keep weeds at bay as much as possible. Follow the package directions for the product you get.
  8. Lay mulch down thicker in areas that are weed-prone. A thick layer of mulch will help keep weeds from taking root.
  9. Avoid piling mulch at the bases of your plants and trucks of trees. Too much mulch at the bases will suffocate the plants. Here’s more info on why you don’t want to add too much mulch.
  10. A small metal rake helps spread mulch in small areas around your plants. If you don’t have a little rake, you might have to crouch down and spread it with your hands. A rake is a bit easier, in my opinion.
  11. Write down how much mulch you use and whether it was too much or too little. When it comes to buying mulch the next time, you’ll be so glad to know exactly how much you need. It might also be helpful to write down the color.
  12. Take breaks! Drink lots of water! Eat! Wear sunscreen! You’ll feel much better at the end of your job if you’ve taken care of yourself throughout.
  13. Enlist help! Mulching can be hard work and it goes so much faster with lots of help. If you have little kids like us, having a babysitter is also helpful.
a wheelbarrow and pitchfork are critical when doing mulch yourself
When you buy mulch by the scoop, a wheelbarrow is helpful for moving it from a big pile to the areas of your garden beds.

Important Note: Please make sure you are in good enough health to lay mulch. It is very hard work. Talk with your doctor.

Tell me your best tips for laying mulch!

What tips did I leave out? I’d love to hear about your experience laying mulch! Comment below.

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pinterest pin describing must know tips for laying mulch

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Disclaimer: The information published in this blog is for information and entertainment purposes only. I am not an expert and you should look elsewhere for advice. I am not liable for any damages resulting from using the information on this blog. All activities for children should be done with adult supervision. For further information, see the Disclaimer page.

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