Mulching is an important part of tree care, and many people do not know the vast array of reasons why this is true. Here is a top-five list of most important reasons why you should mulch:
- Mulch improves soil aeration and drainage for the tree
- Mulch is a temperature barrier that shields roots from extreme heat in summer and extreme cold in winter
- Mulch conserves moisture for the tree
- Mulch impedes the growth of nutrient-hogging weeds
- Mulch prevents soil erosion by impeding water runoff
Knowing why one should mulch is the first step. The next two steps are to know what mulch types to consider, and how to apply mulch effectively.
There are a myriad of mulch types out on the market today, but they all fall into two basic categories: inorganic and organic.
- Inorganic mulches include those made of rock, stone, lava rock, rubber, other non-plant-based or synthetic materials. The benefit of these mulches is that they last a long, long time. There are not, however, nutrient-rich. They will never add to the structure or fertility of the soil, like the natural mulches are more apt to do.
- Organic mulches include all mulches made of natural plant-based materials. Bark mulches, wood chips, pine needles, compost, leaves and hulls all fall into this category. Natural mulches have to be replenished from time to time. It is usually an annual task. But don’t let that detract you from considering the benefits. Natural mulches are naturally nutritious to the root systems they are intended to protect. The fact that they decompose over time is an indication that it works itself into the soil structure that maintains and sustains the tree, and that is a very good thing.
How Much Mulch – and Which Mulch is Best
Consider the nature of the tree you intend to mulch. If, for instance, it is a tree that prefers slightly acidic soil, go with mulch that can assist it with this preference. Pine needle or pine bark mulches would be best to use in this instance. How wide around the circumference of the tree is up to you, but the root system that would benefit from the mulch extends beyond the tree’s drip line, so mulching out that far is a perfectly good idea.
How deep should you mulch? A good rule of thumb is three inches deep. How much mulch you choose to use may be a little more or a little less than that, but three inches is a good average.
Once your tree is properly mulched, you will not only have the satisfaction of knowing that the tree will greatly benefit from this care, it will also improve its beauty and prominence in the landscape surrounding it. So now you have a feel for how much you and your trees will enjoy the results of this gardening ritual, Let’s mulch!