Time to Mulch
Time to Mulch, With Spring around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about your landscape and a good time to Mulch.
Trees with mulched root zones are usually larger, healthier, develop faster, and have higher rates of survival than plants surrounded by turf grass or bare dirt. Mulches retain soil moisture and nutrients and reduce erosion and soil compaction.”
Mulched trees also have fewer weeds growing near the trunk, which reduces the need for the roots to compete for limited resources. The soil under the mulch also likely stays warmer longer into the winter and also warms faster in the spring, helping extend the growing season for plants in colder regions.
Natural mulches are a favorite among professional arborists, who view wood chips as excellent, attractive mulch for trees. Other natural mulches include bark chips, ground bark, composted lawn clippings, leaves, and straw. These mulches are high in cellulose and low in nitrogen and should be free of weed seeds.
How Wide is Wide? A good mulch bed should extend out at least three feet from a tree’s trunk in all directions, though extending out to the dripline is preferred. This is where the fine, absorbing tree roots extend out into the soil, and mulch provides many health-related benefits for those roots. Keep all mulches several inches away from the base of the tree to avoid rot and diseases.
How Deep is Deep? The mulch bed depth should be maintained at 2 to 4 inches.
Go Ahead, Cover the Grass! If there is grass in the area that needs to be mulched, put a five-page layer of newspaper over the grass, get it wet, then add mulch on top (this will help keep the grass from growing up through the mulch).
- No Volcanoes, Please! The biggest no-no when mulching is to create a “mulch volcano” that is piled high around the base of the tree. This practice traps moisture around the tree trunk and root flare leading to decay and, eventually, structural failure.
- Don’t Keep Adding New Mulch on Top of the Old. While mulch does decompose, you do not want to accumulate excessive mulch year after year by adding fresh mulch every spring. If you want the look of fresh mulch, break up the old with a rake, and only add a layer of new on top if there are less than 4 inches in depth.