How to Put Down Mulch Correctly in 7 Steps

how to put down mulch

Sure, a colorful bed of flowers is nice.

But it needs some help to really make an impact.

We’re not talking about the “big names” in gardening, like fertilizer, or irrigation, or even sunlight—although those can certainly be helpful in their own way, when used correctly.

We’re talking about lowly mulch.

Mulch creates a rich, dark background for your flowers and plants to contrast with, so their colors can pop out of your landscape. Mulch also holds moisture and heat around your plant beds, keeping them healthy while conserving resources.

Unfortunately, mulch installation isn’t as easy as tossing a handful onto the plant bed. We’ll show you how to put down mulch correctly in seven steps.

But first—what type of mulch should you use?

Choosing a Mulch

A few types of mulch are common in North Central Florida: pine bark mulch, pine needle mulch, and cedar mulch. There’s also the option of recycling fallen leaves into mulch.

Each mulch has its pros and cons, which we’ve outlined in detail here. As a general rule of thumb:

We recommend pine bark mulch for most properties since it’s affordable, easy to use, and looks great. Cedar is most useful for “statement” mulch—like if you’re painting it blue and orange before a Gator game. Recycled leaves are a great option for the eco-minded folks out there.

Different mulches will impact your soil’s pH in different ways. The Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook has information on determining your soil’s pH and what might alter it.

How to Put Down Mulch Correctly

1. Measure your plant bed

For residential buyers, mulch typically comes in 2 cubic feet-bags. Measure your plant beds before so you know how much to buy.

2. Clear the ground

Remove weeds, leaves, and other debris so the mulch has a clean space to sit on.

For areas with substantial or persistent weeds, put a layer of landscape sheeting down after clearing. This will suppress weeds from growing up through the mulch.

3. Create a clean edge

A sharp edge makes your plant bed look cleaner and more striking against the rest of your property.

The easiest way to create an edge is to dig down 2 to 4 inches all around the sides of the plant bed. Over time, loose mulch will fall into the trench rather than spreading chaotically over your grass.

A super attractive (but more expensive) option is to lay stone or cement along your plant bed. Look for “concrete edging” in the “hardscape” section of your local hardware store or garden store.

4. Level the ground

If the ground is uneven when you put mulch down you’ll get areas of dirt poking out, which allows weeds to creep in. A level bed also looks much more professional and attractive.

5. Position your mulch strategically

You come home after a busy morning of errands. You dump your mulch near the carport, bring the groceries inside, and take care of some chores. When you come back out to start putting down mulch, you realize it’s nowhere near the plant bed. You’ll be wheelbarrowing back and forth all afternoon.

Do yourself a favor and drop your mulch near your plant bed!

If possible, put it on a sidewalk or driveway, so that it doesn’t compress the grass underneath. Mulch is also much easier to shovel off of a flat surface.

6. Layer your mulch

The big question here is: how much?

You can aim to put down about 2 to 4 inches with most mulch types as well as recycled leaves.

As a general rule of thumb, the larger the mulch chunks, the more you’ll need to put down. That’s because bigger mulch pieces allow more sun through, which weeds can take advantage of.

Pine straw is a bit particular—it tends to deflate over time, so you can put down 4 to 6 inches at first.

7. But avoid crowding your plants!

The most important step in mulching is to clear space around you shrub and flower stems. If the mulch crowds your plants it can rot their stems, ultimately killing entire plants.


Sun Power Lawn Care offers start-to-finish mulching services, including mulch delivery. We work with common North Central Florida mulches including pine bark, pine straw, cypress and more. Contact us online or call us at (352) 507-5296 to discuss how we can beautify and strengthen your property this season.

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