How to Mulch for Healthy Trees

Correct Mulch Placement

Correct Mulch Placement Around a Tree

Mulch is healthy for trees when used correctly.  Mulch helps to simulate a forest environment.  In a forest environment trees receive natural organic fertilizer from the decomposing dead trees and leaves on the forest floor.  When trees are surrounded by grass they are in an alien environment and the grass roots compete with tree roots for the nutrients from decomposing matter. Trees with mulch receive nourishment from decomposing matter where trees surrounded by grass receive much less.  Create a forest environment around your trees by using mulch.

However, if you get carried away and use too much mulch you will be asking for tree health problems.  Listed below are the benefits of mulching and the do’s and don’ts of mulching your trees. 

Mulching Provides Your Tree Many Benefits

There are many benefits to mulching above your tree’s root zone.  A few are listed below:

  1. Root zone temperature regulation.  Mulch keeps the roots cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
  2. Greater nourishment from decomposing matter. Increased organic matter means improved nutrient uptake by the roots.
  3. Reduction in water run-off and erosion resulting in improved water retention.
  4. Mulch is attractive and adds aesthetic value to the trees and landscape

Mulching Do’s:

  1. Buy mulch or woodchips to create a mulch bed around your trees to better simulate forest growing conditions.  Neither mulch nor woodchips attract termites.  Often, woodchips can be delivered to your house and dumped in your driveway for little to no cost.
  2. Create a larger mulch bed whenever possible and aesthetically pleasing in your overall landscape.  Your mulch bed should be 4-6 foot in diameter of more; the bigger the better. If you have enough space in your yard, you can extend the mulch bed out to the tree’s drip line.
  3. Pull the mulch away from the trunk of your tree creating a basin.  Mulch should be several inches away from the tree trunk.
  4. Mulch anytime of the year.  Spring, summer, fall, and winter are all good times to spread mulch for your trees.

Mulching Don’ts:

  1. Lay your mulch no more than 2-3 inches thick.  Applying too thick of a layer will starve the tree of oxygen. 
  2. Don’t pile mulch up against the tree’s trunk.  Mulch piled against your tree’s trunk will create a habitat for ants, wood borers, and other wood destroying insects. 
  3. Too much mulch can cause girdling root, where roots begin to grow around the main stem of the tree and cut off or restrict the movement of water and nutrients.