Wheel barrow full of soil

When purchasing materials for your landscaping project, it can be hard to know exactly how much to buy. Not only do you need to calculate the square footage of the space you are landscaping in southern Alberta, you should also consider the properties of your preferred product, since soil, mulch, and aggregate should be used to different depths.

To accurately estimate the quantities you require for your project, you’ll need 2 values:

  1. The square footage or area of the space you will be covering
  2. The depth required for the specific landscaping material

Calculating the Square Footage of Your Space

Determining the square footage of your landscaping space might seem like a math pop quiz you forgot to study for, but it’s a lot more manageable than you’d think! 

Your strategy for measuring the square footage of your space will vary depending on the shape of your space.

Rectangular spaces

Square or rectangular spaces are the easiest to get an accurate measurement of. If your space is made of one rectangle, such as a standard lawn or a garden bed, you can measure the length and width to calculate your square footage.

Step 1: measure the width of your space in feet

Step 2: measure the length of your space, in feet

Step 3: multiply the two values together to get your square footage

If your space can be divided into several squares or rectangles, you can follow these steps:

Step 1: divide your space into multiple rectangles or squares

Step 2: measure the length and width of your first rectangle, in feet

Step 3: multiply length by width to get the square footage of that segment

Step 4: repeat steps 2 & 3 for each of your rectangles/squares

Step 5: add all of the square footage values together to get the square footage of your entire space

Irregularly shaped spaces

It takes a little extra technique to estimate the square footage of spaces with that aren’t a consistent shape. Below are a few strategies you might use to get an accurate calculation in these cases.

  1. Divide into Regular Shapes: Break down the space into smaller, regular shapes like rectangles, triangles, or squares. Measure each regular shape separately, calculate their individual areas, and then sum them up to find the total square footage of the yard. This method works best when the irregular shape can be approximated by simpler geometric shapes.
  1. Grid Method: Create a grid or a series of squares or rectangles over the yard. Measure the length and width of each grid section, and then calculate the area of each section individually. Add up the areas of all the sections to get the total square footage of the yard. This method can work well for complex irregular shapes.
  1. Use a Measuring Tool: If you have access to a measuring tool like a laser distance meter or a measuring wheel, you can physically measure the length and width of different parts of the yard. Divide the yard into smaller sections and measure each section individually. Multiply the length by the width of each section to calculate its area, and then sum up the areas to determine the total square footage.

It’s important to note that yards with curved sections are harder to get an accurate measurement of. You can still employ the tactics outlined here to get an idea of the square footage, but it will be an approximation. If you need a very accurate measurement or if there are legal boundaries involved, you might want to hire a professional land surveyor, since they will have the tools and expertise to get an exact value.

Landscaping Products and Their Depths

Soil, mulch, and aggregate are common choices for most landscaping projects, but they cannot be used interchangeably. Using them to different depths is necessary to ensure each product functions optimally, from drainage to nutrient retention. 

Another important factor is the climate conditions of your location. In Lethbridge and southern Alberta, a heavy bed of material depth is the best defence for low maintenance. That way, when the wind blows dust, dirt and weeds into your material, it is easier to maintain.

That said, the following measures are recommended for landscape work done in Lethbridge and southern Alberta.

Topsoil 4-6 inches (0.111 to 0.167 yards)

Garden mix 2-4 inches (0.056 to 0.111 yards)

Mulches 4-6 inches (0.111 to 0.167 yards)

Aggregates 3-4 inches (0.083 to 0.111 yards)

Unit Conversions

When you’re collecting your measurements, be mindful of the units you’re using. If you use feet for some measurements and yards for others, your final calculations will be a mess. Before combining all your values, make sure to convert all of the numbers to a shared unit. Here, we recommend using yards, which will get you your final value of cubic yards.

Here are some helpful conversions: 

  • 1 inch = 0.02778 yards
  • 1 foot = 12 inches
  • 1 foot = 0.33333 yards
  • 1 yard = 3 feet
  • 1 yard = 36 inches

Before moving on to the final calculation, make sure to convert all your values to yards. 

Calculating the Volume of Product You Need

The final step in determining how much product you’ll need is to multiply your square footage by the depth of the product you’re using.

As an example, let’s pretend you are landscaping a space in your backyard that is a rectangle. You do measurements to determine it is 10 feet long and 7 feet wide, which gives you an area of 70 square feet. Using the conversion values above, you convert this value into yard by multiplying 70 by 0.33333 to get 23.3331 square yards. 

For this example, let’s pretend to use topsoil. Top soil should be placed to a depth of 4-6 inches (0.111 to 0.167 yards). With this information, you can run the following calculation:

Square footage of your space x depth of your product = how much product you need

23.3331 square yards x 0.167 yards = 3.8966 cubic yards of top soil

Proper planning ensures you avoid the challenges of having excessive or insufficient materials for your project. It also helps when planning your budget and schedule, since you don’t have to worry about sinking costs into materials you don’t use or shifting timelines to accommodate the need to purchase additional product.

153 thoughts on “Calculating Soil, Mulch, and Aggregate Needs in Lethbridge and Southern Alberta: Cubic Yard Guide”

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