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How Much Does Mulch Cost?

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National Landscaping Costs

$0.54 per sq. ft. Minimum Cost
$1.07 per sq. ft. Maximum Cost

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How Much Does Mulch Cost?

Mulch is used by landscapers and gardeners to prevent or halt the growth of weeds. It is also used to protect bulbs and perennials during the colder months of the year. Mulch may be added to flower beds, around shrubs and trees, and other landscaping features for aesthetic reasons. The careful selection and installation of mulch is essential for plant and tree health.

Average Costs of Mulch

The minimum expenditure for mulch is around $200 while the maximum is nearly $2,000. The actual expense to a home or business owner will depend on the cubic foot of mulch, the type of mulch, the mulch's weight, whether the mulch will be left in a pile or placed around each tree and flower bed and the distance the mulch must travel to be delivered. 

Mulching Flower Beds Cost

Once a home or business owner purchases the mulch, there will be an additional cost to lay the mulch on flower beds, around trees and elsewhere as desired. The cost of labor to perform this work averages $0.75 per square foot of area to be mulched. On the low end, the cost is $0.54 per square foot while at the upper end, the cost is $1.07 per square foot. If the workers need to move the mulch around with hand tools or heavy equipment, this will add to the project's overall cost. Unusual working conditions such as steep terrain, water features and the presence of fragile plants may add to the cost.

Types of Mulch

There are two main types of mulch that home and business owners use to protect their plants and beautify the landscape.

  • The first type is organic mulch, which is made from natural materials such as bark, leaves and husks.
  • Newspaper, sand, sea shells, pine needles, gravel, straw, hay and stone may also be considered organic mulch.
  • Synthetic mulch is the other type of landscaping mulch.
  • Plastics, glass, crushed brick, landscaping fabrics, and blends of plastic and rubber are man-made materials used to mulch the landscape. Landscaping fabric is most often used with an additional type of mulch for a better-looking final result.

Bark Mulches

Bark mulches are the most popular type of mulch used in landscaping. They can be left natural or dyed. They last for around two years before they begin to decompose. Shredded hardwood is a common choice because of its aesthetic appeal. It comes in red, brown and black. Bark chips, usually made of pine, are another popular choice. These pieces are lightweight and tend to float or shift in heavy rains.

Other Mulch Types

Straw, newspaper and leaf mulch may be used as temporary cover when reseeding a lawn or to protect bulbs and wintering plants. This mulch is then removed when warmer weather arrives or when the seeds sprout. Stone, crushed corn cobs, peanut hulls, saw dust and rubber mulch are also used in areas to prevent unwanted weed or grass growth. Pine needles are ideal for plants like berries that enjoy acidic conditions.

Selection of Mulch

Different types of mulches work better for different types of plants. Using too much or the wrong kind of mulch near a sensitive tree or plant may cause the vegetation to develop a disease, rot, decay or attract destructive pests. A landscaping company should be able to identify the plants on the premises and offer advice about the ideal mulching material. 

Proper Mulch Layout

Using too much or not enough mulch will not create the desired effects of weed prevention and plant protection. Mulch should be placed no closer than 6 inches from the base of a tree and at a depth of 4 to 6 inches. If newspaper mulch is used, at least 2 inches of mulch is needed. Most mulches work best if a layer of 2 to 4 inches of depth is used throughout the area. The mulch should be spread evenly so that no low spots occur. The thinner the mulching material is, the more shallowly it should be laid. Thicker pieces of mulch, such as hardwood nuggets, can be spread in thicker layers.

Mulch Safety Issues

Mulch made from cocoa bean hulls may be a safety hazard to dogs. The cocoa beans contain theobromine, which can increase a dog's heart rate, and the dog may also vomit. Rubber mulch may contain benzene, which is a known carcinogen. When mulch is piled too high against a tree trunk, the constant moisture may make the tree prone to disease or decay. The moisture may also increase the risk of pests like termites and carpenter ants. Keeping mulch at least 6 inches away from the tree trunk can help prevent pest and other tree health problems.

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