Bagged vs Bulk Mulch vs FREE: Which is Best and Why? (Updated 4/3/2024)

Bagged vs Bulk Mulch vs FREE: Which is Best and Why? (Updated 4/3/2024)


Hi there!

It's getting to be that time of year again - when organic matter permeates our grey matter!

Hey - what if you didn't have to pay for that fresh layer of mulch for your garden project?

Read on to learn the pros and cons of mulch bought in bags vs. bulk, or obtained for free!

Free Mulch (Bagged or Bulk)

Get ready to fill up a bag or a pickup truck with as much mulch as you need for your mulching project - gratis!

6 Ways To Get Free Mulch

Ask Local Tree and Landscaping Businesses

When you see a tree trimming or landscaping crew ask if they’ll give you woodchips. (I've done this; it works!)

Woodchip and Mulch Matching Service

Services like match you with local businesses looking to unload mulch.

Parks Districts

Check with your local parks district to find out if, when, and where you can collect mulch.

Streets and Sanitation Departments

Many city streets and sanitation departments trim trees and create mulch that's available free to residents.

Electric Power Suppliers

Electric power companies trim and remove trees that impinge on power lines. Check with your supplier or ask a linesman.

Recycling Centers

Some recycling centers take organic materials and create free mulch. 

Free Mulch: Pros

No Cost!

Nothing else to say here!

Support Local Business

Taking free woodchips from local small businesses helps their bottom line by saving on gasoline, truck wear/tear, landfill fees.

Free Mulch: Cons

You Get What You Get

Our free mulch wasn’t the prettiest but it was fine for walking paths and new flower beds.

No Control Over Delivery Date

Prepare for a massive dump of chips that could occur at anytime.

Bagged Mulch

Mulch bought in bags offers variety and convenience.

Bagged Mulch: Pros


You get many mulch choices in different colors and textures. Wood chips, pine bark, cypress mulch, red mulch, black mulch, brown mulch – all types of mulch in cubic foot bags ready to roll in the back of your car.

Easy To Obtain

Big box stores like Home Depot make it easy to purchase bagged mulch since they are open pretty much all the time.

A tip: local nurseries tend to offer more certified organic mulches. You can get bag mulch, or a cubic yard of bulk mulch (usually for an extra delivery fee). Bonus: you'll support local small businesses!

Easy To Apply

Bags of mulch are easy to move around and spread. A wheelbarrow is optional.

Available In Small Quantities

Need just a little mulch to finish a small job? Mulch bags are your best bet.

Easy To Store

Comes in its own storage container so it’s easy to manage left-overs. Just close up the bag and tuck it away.

Bagged Mulch: Cons

More Expensive Than Bulk Mulch

Though seasonal deals on bagged mulch can save dollars, buying mulch in bags typically has a higher price tag. (See below re the average price of bagged and bulk mulch.)

Additional Costs

In addition to the cost of a big-box store or garden center bag, there's also the cost to go get individual bags - gas, wear and tear on your car, and the cost of your time to run around.

Plastic Bags

We've all heard that plastic bags are bad for the environment. Depending on your project, you could be left holding many plastic bags.

Photo of a mulched raised bed with borders made with 2xEDGE staples with text: Easy DIY raised beds.

Bulk Mulch

Mulch bought in bulk is less costly than bags.

Bulk Mulch: Pros

The Less Expensive Option

Bulk mulch is less expensive than buying mulch in bags - see below. If you're measuring flower beds in square feet you're probably better off buying cubic yards of mulch in bulk.

Expert Help With Your Order

You typically buy bulk mulch at farm or landscaping stores. These folks know things and can help you assess the amount of mulch you need.

Mulch Available Anytime

Once it's delivered you'll think there's no way you can use all the mulch that just got dumped on you. No worries! You'll have mulch at the ready for garden projects. No need to run back to the store for one more bag!

Support Local Small Business

Most farm and landscaping stores are family owned small businesses. If your local economy is important to you, buying bulk mulch is a way to show support. 

Know Your Mulch

Bulk mulch suppliers know their products; it's easier to get answers about where mulch came from, what's in the mulch, etc.

Bulk Mulch: Cons

Less Options

Unlike big box stores, buying in bulk tends to limit the type of mulch available to buy.

Other Costs

Some places will deliver bulk mulch for free; others may charge a delivery cost.

Be Prepared Ahead of Time

It's a good idea to have free square footage available for your mulch delivery. Bulk mulches typically arrive in a dump truck. You'll need an area that can be accessed by a large truck that needs vertical clearance to operate.

Photo of a mulched flower bed with borders made with 2xEDGE staples with text: Contain your mulch, naturally.

Price comparison

Bulk mulch is typically sold by the cubic yard (3 feet wide, 3 feet long, and 3 feet high), which is 27 cubic feet.

Bagged mulch typically comes in 2-cubic-foot bags. You'll need 14 bags to get a cubic yard's worth of mulch.

Dyed mulch is popular with a lot of people. On average, a bag of dyed mulch costs $4 (not on sale). You'd spend $56 to get a cubic yard of bagged mulch.

In comparison, a cubic yard of dyed mulch bought in bulk costs ~$40 with free bulk delivery.

Mulch Calculator

Figure out the amount of mulch you need with this calculator!

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