Clients want their landscapes to have a fresh look every spring, and many of them count on a fresh layer of mulch to improve the appearance of their properties. Providing this service is a dependable and profitable revenue booster if you do it efficiently.

Apart from its revenue-producing potential, mulch is great for improving the health of landscape plants.

Landscape Concepts Management, Grayslake, Illinois, produces its own mulch by recycling wood chips, grass clippings, leaves and other debris from their job sites. The company’s grinders work daily, and the company installs up to 30,0000 yards of mulch annually.

Fleet Manager Kevin Stone says: “Our blended mulch helps with weed control, provides moisture retention and returns nutrients to the soil. We control the entire mulch process and communicate with our clients the best ways to use mulch on their properties.”

Knowledgeable contractors realize the key to profitable mulching is to keep labor expenses low, which means identifying creative ways to offer the service. One of the keys to offering the service in an efficient manner is to move the material and position bulk loads to reduce crew foot travel. You can waste a lot of labor hours dumping and spreading mulch.

Bag it, blow it or dump it?

There are three main ways to mulch a property: with bags, by blowing it or by dumping and spreading the material.

Bagged mulch works best for small applications, such as residential flowerbeds. Blowing may require a powerful and expensive piece of equipment, and can at times put mulch where it isn’t intended. Nobody in this business can afford to waste time cleaning up messes they could have avoided in the first place. Due to the high cost of a powerful material blower, many contractors will sub out big jobs, adding a markup in the process.

Dumping and spreading on site is a popular choice for many sites and, with correct planning, results in good early season profits.

“We clearly see the efficiency in production with a mechanized piece of equipment to load the wheelbarrow, which is the most physical part of the mulching process,” says David Sherry, area manager for Ruppert Landscape. The goal is to install more mulch with less manpower.

“We are evaluating the mulch process with an eye to innovation,” he adds, “and watching the pennies along the way.”

Most companies put down mulch just before grounds maintenance begins. In many areas, mulching takes place in February and March. Applying fresh mulch is not rocket science; it just requires planning. And, of course, you want to provide a quality service.

Two of the biggest no-no’s in mulching is putting down too much material and doing “volcano mulching,” which is piling mulch up high around the base of trees. “Putting too much mulch around trees results in unhealthy trees and prevents moisture from reaching the root system,” warns Stone of Landscape Concepts Management.