Landscaping Materials

When you only need a few bags of potting soil or decorative rock, buying individual bags from your local home and garden center might be a good option. But what if you need enough soil to fill your backyard, or enough gravel to create a solid base for your pavers? Well, you certainly don’t want to buy it by the bag if you don’t have to (we brought in around 60 yards of material to landscape our backyard). Anytime you buy materials by the bag, you are paying a premium and creating a lot of waste. In this blog I will give you some tips on where to get your landscaping materials and how to measure out what you need.

Where to Buy

Try doing a Google search for landscaping material retailers in your area (for those of you in the Reno, NV region, I strongly recommend BLT Ready Mix). If you don’t find any via search, try asking around at your local home improvement store. If you find multiple companies, compare materials, prices, and delivery charges. Unless you live close and have a pickup truck, you will probably want materials delivered, and some places offer free delivery if you order a full truck (sometimes it is worth getting a little extra just for the free delivery). If you plan to use your own truck to get materials, make sure you verify the capacity of your truck and the weight of the material (see the chart below for some weight estimates).

Measuring what you need

Landscaping materials are typically ordered by the cubic yard, and many places will let you order down to a half yard. A cubic yard is 3’x3’x3’ or 27 cu. ft. To determine how many yards you need of a given material, you need to determine the total number of cubic feet and divide by 27.

Ex: You have 5 planters that are 4’x8’x1’ each. Each planter is 32 cu. ft, for a total of 160 cu. ft. To determine the number of yards needed to fill all 5 planters, divide 160/27 which gives us 5.9 cu. yards, so you would round up and order 6 yards.

Uneven Ground

So what if you are trying to level uneven ground? Well, you can either divide the area into rectangles of the same depth (calculating the volume of each area individually), or you can use an average depth for the entire area. It really depends how critical the measurement is, but in the end it is still an approximation. I always try to overestimate when getting a delivery, and somehow even when you order too much, it always seems to fit somewhere.

The Delivery

If you are getting a large delivery, here are a few things to think about and check.

  • Do you need any permits or permission from the HOA? A large dirt mound makes it pretty obvious that you are working on something.
  • The delivery truck is extremely heavy, and most driveways are not built to withstand that kind of weight. To avoid damage to your driveway, ask the delivery driver to keep the wheels on the street when dumping the material. You should also avoid sidewalks if you have them, since if they crack, you will be responsible (our driver was familiar with our neighborhood and had never seen any problems, so we decided to risk the back wheels going on the sidewalk)
  • Is the pile going to extend into the street? Odds are that it will, especially if you don’t let the truck fully onto your driveway. Make sure you get what is in the street moved first so you don’t create a hazard or block drainage. We parked a car in front of the pile so no one would drive into it accidentally.

Dirt Mounds are Fun

It’s not every day that you have 10 yards of soil in your driveway, and kids love it. Before you haul it all away, let the kids have a little fun.


I hope this blog was helpful and let me know if you have any further questions on ordering landscaping materials.

2 thoughts on “Landscaping Materials

  1. Alright, great information here. In case anyone has a bigger projct than they want to handle in the chicago land area, we are here to help. Of course if you call us and ask a quick question that can help your DIY project than we are more than happy to help you too! Our site is

    On the measurements that you have on here, there are also many material suppliers that provide free calculators to make your work even easier! As you recommended in the article, just google it and you will find many options! Thanks and you are right, our kids love a good pile of anything, gravel, dirt, you name it!

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