Buying Guide

How to Use Mulch in the Garden

Types of Mulches
Types of Mulches

There are two main types of mulch: organic mulches made from wood and permanent mulches made of rubber. Wood mulches need a fresh application each year because they break down, adding organic matter to the soil and plants.

Rubber mulches, on the other hand, will not decompose, which makes them a perfect choice for playgrounds and permanent installations where a low-maintenance product is needed to improve drainage and prevent erosion. Rubber mulch is a little more expensive, but it carries a color guarantee.

Both types of mulch come in a variety of colors. You can choose from red, black or brown to enhance your plants and make them “pop.”

Protect Your Plants with Mulch
Protect Your Plants with Mulch

In the vegetable garden, a fluffy layer of shredded straw or bark does double duty as a weed deterrent and insulating blanket that slows water evaporation. In a raised garden bed, place a soaker hose among your tomato plants and cover with a layer of mulch to keep plants happy through the long, hot summer.

Tips for Buying and Applying Mulch:
  • Home Depot’s Mulch Calculator makes the work of figuring out how much to buy a snap. Plug in the width and length and the desired depth of your mulch layer (usually three inches), select the type product your want, and you’ll get the number of bags to purchase.
  • Remember texture. A finer shred will decompose more quickly, and as a result, will need to be replaced more frequently. Coarser nuggets last longer.
  • For a little more money, invest in rubber mulches, which carry a color guarantee. They will not deteriorate and are guaranteed not to fade for 12 years. These mulches are low-maintenance and effective.
  • For most flower beds, a 3-inch mulch layer is all that’s needed. If you’re creating a new flower bed, apply weed preventer, then landscape fabric, top with soil and then mulch.
  • Wind and leaf blowers can make a mess of mulch in your yard. To keep mulch in place, try a landscape adhesive like Mulch Lock or BarkBinder. These products bind mulch while allowing water and nutrients to flow through the ground cover. The products need to be applied on warm days without a chance of rain. Carefully follow label directions for best results with these products. 
  • When spreading mulch, stack the bags throughout the area. Use a box cutter or knife to cut each bag down its length, then lay the bag flat and slice it down the middle, from one end to the other. Then, flip the bag and shake it by the corners. Keep your work area neat by taking the first bag and stuffing all subsequent bags into it as you empty them.
Buy Mulch in Bulk
Buy Mulch in Bulk

For bigger projects, The Home Depot sells mulch by the truckload. Bulk mulch is sold by the cubic yard and can be delivered to your home or job site in quantities from five to 25 cubic yards. Check with your local store about delivery for mulch. Learn more about purchasing bulk mulch at The Home Depot in our Mulch Buying Guide.

With a chipper shredder, available for rental at The Home Depot, and a bit of wooded land, it’s easy enough to make your own mulch. Just shred downed trees and limbs, mixing in shredded leaves and grass clippings for a decomposable mulch. Fresh mulch should smell like just-cut wood, not sour. Mulch stored in a pile should be turned every two weeks to keep from spoiling.

When determining how much mulch you need, don't guesstimate, calculate. Know exactly how much you need with our project calculators.