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Give Your Trees Some TLC with These 7 Easy Mulching Steps

Give Your Trees Some TLC with These 7 Easy Mulching Steps

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It can be incredibly disheartening when you notice your tree leaves turning yellow. This may be due to a lack of nutrition, poor soil pH, or insufficient moisture.

While these all seem like complicated issues, there’s one simple solution that can address them all: mulch. Adding a layer of the organic compound to your soil can do wonders for your trees’ health and longevity.

At this point, you may be wondering how to mulch around trees. If that’s the case, you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s dive into the best practices when it comes to mulching trees!

How to Mulch Around Trees

Mulching seems like a daunting task, but the process is a walk in the park. Here are the steps you can follow to add a layer of mulch around your trees.

Step 1: Figure Out the Best Type of Mulch for Your Trees

There are hundreds of types of mulch on the market, but we can break them all up into two categories: organic and inorganic.

Organic mulch consists of natural materials. These include dead leaves, bark, wood, compost, and even sawdust.

The primary benefit of using this variety is that it can decompose and release nutrients into your soil. Although, this also means you’ll have to replace the mulch frequently.

On the other hand, the inorganic compound contains synthetic materials like plastic, rubber, and gravel. This variety won’t fertilize your soil, but it can last for years with the proper maintenance.

Step 2: Clear Out the Area Around Your Trees

From my experience, before you spread out a layer of mulch, it’s best to create an even surface for it to sit on. This will guarantee the material doesn’t shift out of place with heavy rainfall.

So, grab your trusty gardening shovel and clear out the area around your trees – remove any debris like dead leaves, sticks, and gravel.

Other than that, I recommend you spend some time pruning any tree leaves that are growing too close to the ground.

Step 3: Water the Soil

Once the cleaning is out of the way, it’s time for watering. Grab your garden hose and sprinkle a generous amount of water all around your trees.

That way, the roots will have all the moisture they need to stay anchored. Just be careful not to over-water the growing medium.

Remember: the soil should be moist, not damp.

Step 4: Add Fertilizer to the Soil

Freshly watered soil is the best surface for fertilizing. The excess moisture helps the fertilizer dissolve and evenly distribute throughout the growing medium.

Depending on the type of tree you’re growing, the best fertilizer to use will change. So, I suggest you check in with your local gardening shop and ask them for guidance.

Step 5: Find Out How Much Mulch You Need per Tree

If you’re like me, math can be a sore subject, so I’ll keep the numbers as simple as possible. The golden rule is you need to spread mulch in a four to five-foot diameter around each tree.

Plus, the layer has to be between two to three inches deep. This should cover all the tree roots for maximum protection.

Finally, your mulch should never touch the bark. Leave a one to two-inch gap all around the base of the tree.

Otherwise, the mulch will prevent proper oxygen flow to your plant.

Step 6: Add the Mulch and Lock It in Place

With the math out of the way, you can lay your mulch. Ideally, you should use your hand to do this.

Grab handfuls of mulch and gently place it in a circle around your trees. Not only will this give you precise control of the layers, but it’ll make gauging the thickness of the mulch much easier.

However, if you’d rather keep your hands clean, a shovel should do the trick instead.

To lock the mulch in place, break out your garden hose and sprinkle a generous amount of water on top.

Step 7: Maintain Your Mulch

The maintenance routine depends on the type of mulch you use.

Since organic mulch decomposes over time, you’ll need to replenish it regularly. Typically, you only need a new layer every one to two years – but this can change based on where you live and the weather conditions.

For that reason, you’ll need to keep an eye on the thickness of the mulch. When it drops below one inch, it’s time for a new layer.

As for inorganic mulch, the process is a breeze. All you have to do is rake the leaves that fall off your trees and it can last you over five years.

Why Mulch Around Trees?

Mulch is one of the most versatile tools in a gardener’s arsenal as it can benefit plants in many ways. Here’s a quick look at all the ways mulching is good for your trees:

1 – Locks Moisture in Soil

Moisture is one of the main factors you have to keep an eye on when growing a tree. These plants need a constant supply of water to stay healthy.

Unfortunately, when sunlight hits your soil, it’ll cause the moisture content in the growing medium to evaporate.

So, adding a barrier, like a layer of mulch, helps the water stay locked into the soil.

2 – Stops Weeds From Sprouting

If you’ve had a garden for a while, you know how pesky weeds can be. These parasites will soak up the nutrients from your soil, leaving a depleted supply for your trees.

They seemingly show up out of nowhere as well, and they’re a chore to pull out.

Well, you’ll be happy to know that a thin layer of mulch can reduce weed growth significantly.

The material sits right on top of your soil, which will reduce the amount of sunlight that makes it through to the growing medium. This should stop most weeds from growing.

3 – Regulates Soil Temperature

One of the main benefits of mulch is that it can act as an insulator. The material can trap air particles in the soil, which can aid with regulating the temperature of your growing medium.

In the winter, mulch absorbs heat to prevent tree roots from freezing over. As for the summer, it stops sunlight from reaching the soil surface and raising the temperature.

4 – Holds the Soil in Place

The top layer of your soil can erode easily due to strong winds or heavy rainfall. This can expose your tree’s roots to the air, causing them to dry out.

Luckily, with a layer of mulch, you won’t have to worry about this! The compound will hold the soil down and prevent it from washing away in the rain.

5 – Helps Control Soil pH and Texture

As I mentioned, mulch can trap moisture. This makes it the ideal environment for beneficial microbes to grow.

These organisms can activate certain enzymes that improve your soil’s pH and texture, creating a better environment for your trees.

6 – Acts as a Fertilizer

Organic mulch decomposes over time and releases nutrients into the soil. This will provide your trees with all the minerals they need to grow.

However, note that mulching isn’t a substitute for fertilization. That’s why I always tell beginner gardeners to use a combination of mulch and fertilizers to ensure their trees stay healthy.

Can Mulch Kill Trees?

Even though mulch is exceptionally good for your trees, too much can have a negative effect on the plants.

A thick layer of mulch will restrict oxygen flow into the soil, which will lead to the roots suffocating. This can wreak havoc on your trees.

From my experience, some of the most notable issues include:

  • Inner bark death
  • Fungal and bacterial infections
  • Severe nitrogen deficiency

So, it’s crucial your mulch layer doesn’t exceed three inches.

Best Practices for Mulching Around Trees

There are a couple of tips you can rely on to make sure your mulching adventure is successful.

For starters, check the moisture content of your soil on a regular basis. Every few weeks, you should perform the finger test on your growing medium.

This test involves digging your pointer finger about three inches into the soil. If your digit comes out dry, you need a thicker layer of mulch.

In contrast, when you find that the growing medium is too damp, it’s best to thin out the mulch.

Another pro tip is to ensure that the trunk stays dry. Any excess moisture around the bark can lead to rotting, which is a hassle to resolve.

Final Thoughts

If you’re trying to figure out how to mulch around trees, the whole process can be summed up in just four simple steps.

Start by choosing the mulch type that best matches your preferences. Then, clear out the area around your soil and give it a good watering.

After that, sprinkle on a little fertilizer and calculate how much mulch you need. Finally, add a layer of mulch on top of the soil, and don’t forget to maintain it regularly.

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