Talking Trees - How to Properly Mulch Your Trees

May 27, 2016
One of the best things you can do for your trees is to mulch. However, if done improperly, mulching is one of the worst things you can do to your trees. For more information on mulching or seasonal tree care tips, visit http://www.davey.com/arborist-advice/ Shawn Fitzgerald, Davey Tree Service expert and ISA certified arborist, discusses the benefits of proper mulching, including some key pitfalls to avoid. BENEFITS OF CHOOSING A GOOD ORGANIC MULCH A good organic mulch improves tree soil quality because as it decomposes, it adds organic matter and nutrients to the soil. Examples include shredded hardwood bark, pine straw, pine nuggets and cypress bark. Inorganic mulches such as ground rubber, crushed stone or gravel do not provide this same benefit. In addition to the nutrient value, mulching also conserves soil moisture and provides weed control. HOW TO PROPERLY MULCH TREES AND SHRUBS 1. Apply mulch at a depth of two to four inches. • Thin layers for soils that are poorly drained, high in clay content or have a history of root disease • Thicker layers, up to four inches, for sandy soils 2. “Feather” mulch up to the base of tree and shrub stems. Mulch should be no more than one half inch deep just outside the tree’s stem, but not directly touching the stem. 3. Leave mulch rings around trees at least five feet in diameter for a beneficial effect on young tree growth. It also decreases nutrient competition from surrounding grass and other plants growing nearby. TWO COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN MULCHING TREES AND SHRUBS 1. Too much mulch in planting areas can retain excessive moisture in the root zone, leading to root rot, reduced oxygen and fungal growth. Excessive mulching can also result in undesirable shallow rooting. 2. Mounding mulch on plant stems for a “volcano effect” does nothing beneficial for trees and shrubs. It fosters decay fungi which can devastate the trees and shrubs. Contact your local professionally trained arborist with any questions or concerns you may have.
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