Buying mulch in bulk can be beneficial if you have a large area to cover. This segment looks at two types of mulch. Check your local community -- you may be able to find some for free!

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Buying Mulch in Bulk

This is an example of one of the mulch products that’s available from your garden center in bulk. It’s a shredded hardwood mulch that you can put around your landscape plants. It’s best to apply it three inches thick to provide moisture retention and to keep weeds down.

One reason they make it this fine is that it compacts together and doesn’t blow away from the landscape as compared to larger woodchips. It helps to alleviate that situation. But, it can inhibit gas exchange which it critical for good plant growth.

Another type of mulch is wood trimmings from an arborist or local utility company that has chopped and shredded up tree branches. It comes in various sizes and textures. It helps with porosity in the soil because it lets the water in and the gas exchange out. Sometimes, this is available free of charge at various sites around your community. It can be a very good mulch product.

Since the material is made from a variety of trees, there are different densities in the wood structure. Some of it may break down fairly quickly. You’ll need to keep a three-inch layer on the soil for a good root environment. The mulch will decompose and break down and enrich the soil, so the three inches may be reduced to just one inch. Then, you’ll need to periodically add new mulch – perhaps once a year – to bring it up to the three-inch level.

The mulch is broken down from microorganisms, moisture, and temperature. It releases nutrients into the soil that are made available to the plant tissues. So, the roots can take up the nutrients and make a bigger, healthier plant. This is a very beneficial aspect of mulch. The mulch helps plants to grow by providing nutrients that nourish the plant and help it thrive.

This feature story prepared with Gregg Eyestone, Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Riley County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

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