How Long Does Mulch Last - How Often Should You Replace

Written by Ivy

Jan 03 2023

How Long Does Mulch Last - How Often Should You Replace

Organic mulch normally lasts 4-6 years. Though, several factors may cause you to have to replace or replenish mulch every 1-2 years.

It will eventually be necessary to replace organic mulch because it decomposes over time. A typical mulch might last for five years, but this timeframe can be shortened depending on the mulch, weather, rainfall, sun exposure, etc.

You will need 2-3 inches of mulch for the majority of landscaping and planting applications. You might need to add a lot to ensure adequate coverage if rain, wind, and foot traffic remove some of that. You might also need to add mulch on a regular basis if you experience frequent heavy rains or if the soil and climate are conducive to accelerated decomposition.

How Long is Mulch Good For?

Your watering routine and the kind of mulch you select can affect how long your garden mulch lasts. The two most popular types of garden mulch are bark mulch and wood chips, with finer blends breaking down more quickly than thicker mulch pieces. Bark mulch, on the other hand, typically lasts seven to ten years while wood chips typically last about five to seven. Wood chips are made from the softer, inner portions of waste lumber, whereas bark mulch is made from the hardest parts of the tree, making it last longer.

When Should You Replace Mulch?

You should keep track of the date that your garden mulch was first installed as well as any indications of early decomposition, such as wet, soggy mulch or improperly draining garden areas. Home and business owners should replace mulch when bare spots appear because mulch can also blow away in the wind. Mulches need to be between one and three inches thick to be effective, as a general rule.

Mulch Color

The mulch's color is another element. After about a year, some undyed mulches may begin to turn gray. It's not as appealing, but it's still useful. To improve the landscaping's aesthetics, many people decide to replace all or some of the faded mulch.

Mulches that have been dyed may retain their color for a longer period of time, but it's important to understand how the mulch was colored. As the dye seeps into your soil, the less expensive mulches that are colored by artificial means may have some negative effects. Because of this, colored mulches are frequently taken out and replaced every year. Before adding mulch to your garden and planting beds, make sure you know what it's made of and how it might affect your soil.

Mulch Size

Its longevity is also influenced by the size of your mulch. Wood chips typically don't last as long as bark mulch. Sometimes, mulch that has been shredded is washed away by rain or blown away by strong winds. In comparison to chips or nuggets, shredded mulch will require replacement more frequently.

How to Maintain Mulch

In general, mulch requires very little maintenance to work properly, and some mulches can last for 10 years or longer before needing to be replaced. It is crucial to regularly check your mulch's depth to ensure that it is between 2 and 4 inches deep. Nevertheless, weeds occasionally pop up no matter what you do, and the color of mulch naturally ages with time due to exposure to the sun. Here are some helpful hints for maintaining mulch all year long. You'll have plenty of time left over to unwind and enjoy your garden.

1. Refresh Mulch Color

The frequent exposure to sunlight causes the colors of mulch to deteriorate over time. Regular mulch that hasn't been colored may turn grayish in one to two months, but colored brown or black mulch may maintain its color for a year or longer. All mulches will eventually lose their effectiveness if they are not maintained. What is the secret to making pale mulch more vibrant?

The simplest way to deal with faded mulch is to add a thin layer, or no more than an inch, of new mulch on top of the gray mulch. Examine the present mulch, though, before adding fresh mulch on top of older layers. How thick are the older layers? Since when was the mulch last changed? The mulch appears to be damp or rotting.

It's time to completely replace the old mulch if it's starting to rot. If not, remove as much mulch as you can before adding a new layer because too much mulch could kill your plants. Mulch layers that are stacked higher than 4 inches thick develop a hydrophobic surface. Inadequate mulch can also suffocate plant roots. It's safe to add an inch or two of new, vibrant mulch once the old mulch layers have been reduced to one or two inches.

2. Remove Weeds

Despite mulch's incredible weed-control abilities, weeds still manage to pop up occasionally. Fortunately, it is possible to keep even the most troublesome weeds under control.

First, you might need to add more mulch if you see weeds poking through your mulch. To prevent weeds from growing and to block sunlight, keep mulch layers at least 2 inches deep. For mulch to stop weed growth, sunlight must be blocked. Bark mulches that are coarsely chipped or shredded are best because they decompose more gradually and are less likely to blow away.

Second, be sure to hand-pull weeds as soon as you see them to prevent them from taking over. In a single season, a single weed can produce thousands of seeds. Weeds compete with nearby plants for water, sunlight, and nutrients, so try to get rid of them early before they flower and set seed.

To stop weed seeds from germinating, use a pre-emergence herbicide. The weeds that have already sprouted cannot be controlled by pre-emergence herbicides. Rake the mulch away, pull any weeds that are already present, and use the pre-emergence herbicide as directed on the package. As an organic substitute, you can also try corn gluten meal. The pre-emergence herbicide should be used after replacing the mulch.

You can spray a post-emergence herbicide on weeds that are already present. Sprays containing vinegar or clove oil are organic options. To choose the best herbicides for your needs, consult a nursery and take care not to harm nearby plants.

Instead of using herbicide, you can install landscape fabric to prevent weed growth if you haven't yet added mulch or are in the process of replacing mulch.

How Long Does Mulch Last

3. Mix and Turn Mulch

To break up clumps and make sure it hasn't built up a compacted layer on top of the soil, you should mix and turn your mulch a few times each season. To turn the mulch, grab your rake and gloves and take the following easy steps:

  • Rake the beds, breaking up clumps
  • If needed, spread new mulch over the bed, so it's no more than 2 to 4 inches thick
  • Make sure mulch is a few inches away from plant stems and tree trunks to prevent plant damage
  • Rake or turn over with your hands a few times a season
  • As mulch decomposes, add fresh mulch to keep the layer at 2 to 4 inches

4. Mulch Twice a Year

When layers start to thinning for any reason, add mulch. Mulch should also be replaced if it crumbles in your hands like dirt because at that point it is no longer functional. Mulch should be added twice a year, in the spring and the fall, if not more often.

Make sure to maintain a mulch thickness of at least 2 inches and add more mulch in the spring to replenish washed or blown away mulch as well as to replace old, decomposed mulch. To keep moisture in and help plants get ready for the summer heat, wait until mid- to late-spring when the soil is warm and moist before adding new mulch. Mulch could slow seed germination if it is applied too soon or to cool, wet soil.

To shield plants and roots from the chilly winter temperatures, add fresh mulch in the fall. Mulch should be applied after the first freeze, but before it gets too cold. If you add mulch before the ground freezes, you might draw animals looking for a place to spend the winter. To protect plants from snow compaction, choose loose material such as straw, hay, or pine boughs. Mulch helps to slow down the freezing and thawing cycle, which lowers the chance of plant damage. Add mulch in the fall.

For the best results, mulch new plants immediately after planting them, regardless of the season.

5. Keep Mulch from Washing Away

You're not the only one who has stepped outside to find mulch strewn about the yard. Strong wind gusts or heavy rains can occasionally overcome even the most resilient mulch. Mulch layers must be replaced for a variety of reasons in order to effectively protect nearby plants and trees, prevent weed growth, and maintain a beautiful garden. Here are tips to help make your mulch stay put:

  • Choose the right mulch: Less likely to wash away than pine mulch are heavier mulches, such as hardwood mulches. However, pine straw works well on slopes because the twisting of the needles helps them stay in place.
  • Avoid landscape fabric on slopes: Mulch will readily slide down and wash away from a surface made slick by landscape fabric or plastic sheeting. Instead of using plastic fabric to control weed growth, remove it from slopes and think about using newspaper.
  • Create a border: By constructing an edge around flower or garden beds, you can shield mulch from storms. Your gardens can be edged in a variety of ways. Some examples include using pine straw, stones, wood, metal, or plastic to edge the bed. To keep mulch in, ensure that the edging is several inches high. To prevent mulch from washing into the grass, you can also dig a small trench around flower beds.

How to Maintain Rubber Mulch

Rubber mulch is preferred by some homeowners because it is heavier than natural mulch and won't blow or wash away. It is also simple to maintain and resistant to disease and decomposition. Here's all you need to do to maintain rubber mulch year-round:

  • Regularly remove any weeds, leaves or sticks to keep mulch looking clean
  • Rake rubber mulch to loosen layers that may have become compacted over time
  • Spray mulch with water to remove any dust or dirt that may have collected on the mulch
  • Replace any mulch that has been displaced

You might think about putting down a weed barrier before spreading the rubber mulch to reduce maintenance. Other than that, you can anticipate rubber mulch to last 10 years or longer. But because rubber mulch is more expensive and smells strongly, some homeowners still prefer to stick with natural mulch.

What Mulch to Choose

If you've decided to replace old mulch or are planning to mulch a new area, consider the following factors before you head to the nursery:

  • Texture: For best results, pick mulch with a medium degree of texture. If fine mulch is compacted, it may retain too much moisture, which would then evaporate and never reach the plants. While coarse mulch is porous and unable to hold enough water,
  • Nutrients: When choosing organic mulch, think about how the decomposition of the mulch will affect your soil.
  • Availability: In your community, some materials might be free. Think about the mulch delivery method, the mulch application method, and whether or not you'll need assistance.
  • Aesthetics: Which aesthetic are you going for? If you want to buy new mulch, pick a type that will both keep your plants safe and look good. Here are the best types of mulches for a landscape or garden:
  • Shredded bark: Because it takes longer to decompose and is less expensive than other types of mulch, shredded bark is a common choice for mulch. Apply 2 to 4 inches of mulch made from shredded bark around perennial gardens, shrubs, and trees.
  • Straw: As well as giving a garden a lovely golden hue, straw mulch decomposes more slowly than leaves or grass clippings. Mulch is effectively kept away from plants with the help of straw. Prior to applying straw mulch, just be sure to look for weed seeds.
  • Compost: You can even make your own compost, which is a cheap alternative to mulch. Compost's deep, rich color contrasts beautifully with vibrant flowers. Although compost quickly decomposes, the soil is enriched. Compost should be added in the range of 3 to 4 inches.
  • Wood chips: While wood chips, like those made from pine or cedar bark, do not break down as quickly as shredded bark, they are more likely to wash away. It's best to avoid putting wood chips on a slope because they float in water. Larger nuggets will last longer, so keep that in mind. Apply 2 to 4 inches like you would shredded bark.
  • Stones or pebbles: The soil won't be nourished by stones, which won't decompose but may get hot. In cactus gardens, stones are frequently employed. If you want to use stones as a mulch, first wrap the soil in landscape fabric to prevent weed growth.

Uncertain of how much mulch you'll require? To determine how much mulch you need for the size of your beds, use our mulch calculator.

What Happens If You Don't Replace Old Mulch?

Every type of mulch eventually deteriorates and loses its intended advantages. Your soil will receive nutrients from organic mulches, which also keep the soil moist and safe. You increase your likelihood of experiencing weed growth and soil erosion as your mulch decomposes or loses depth.

Numerous people only use mulch for landscaping purposes. Mulch will age and lose color as it ages. All types of mulch must go through this process, which may take several months or even several years.


While there isn't a single, simple answer to "How often should mulch be replaced?", it is widely accepted that it is important to maintain your mulch. When you notice signs of decomposition, soil erosion, and discoloration, it's time to replenish or replace the mulch. Furthermore, after five to six years, you'll probably need to remove all of the mulch and replace it.


Should You Remove Mulch Every Year

Expert green thumbs contend that getting rid of last year's mulch is completely unnecessary. Mulch gradually decomposes, enriching the soil with beneficial nutrients and other organic matter. It only ends up being extra work and a waste of money to remove pre-existing mulch each year.

How Long Does Red Mulch Last

With dyed mulch, you will want to replace it every 1-1 ½ year. The color loss in the mulch will also occur more quickly if it is exposed to direct and prolonged sunlight. Your landscape, or portions of it, will probably need replacing before other parts of your yard if they spend the majority of the day in direct sunlight.

How Long Does Black Mulch Last

Mulch colors deteriorate over time as a result of constant exposure to sunlight. Regular non-dyed mulch may become a grayish color in one to two months, while dyed brown or black mulches may keep their color for a year or longer.

How Long Does Mulch Take to Decompose

The practical life-time of mulch can be anywhere from 4-7 years. The time it takes for a layer of mulch to completely decompose is as follows, though it varies depending on a variety of environmental aspects (e.g. in direct sunlight, covering very wet ground etc).

How Long Does Cedar Mulch Last

Mulch made of cedar doesn't degrade quickly. This means that once you have put it on the soil, it will last even for years.