Mulch Better: How and When to Mulch Your Tree

Mulching your tree is one of the most important ways to keep them healthy. As they grow, the soil around them can become depleted of minerals and nutrients. Mulching helps to replenish those nutrients and give the tree what it needs to grow.

But mulching your tree the wrong way can cause harm rather than doing the tree any good at all. Here are some tips and tricks on mulching.

Measure First

The first thing to do it so measure the drip line, or where the tree’s canopy ends. This is the area where you need to spread the mulch. Anything outside of that won’t do the tree any good, and any area too small may not reach the entire root system of the tree.

You don’t start right next to the trunk though. You’ll want to start laying mulch about 8-10” away from the trunk and work out from there.

Proper Methods for Mulching Your Tree

There are things to avoid when mulching your tree. This includes volcano mulching, or pilling mulch in an upward cone around the tree trunk. It’s not good for the tree, and can even suffocate it.

It’s best to spread the mulch in the reverse of this, so that the thickest part of the mulch is the furthest from the tree. That way water runs toward the trunk and root system, and the tree and the soil can breathe properly.

Don’t condense the mulch, but rather spread it around so that it does not get too compacted. Compacted mulch has the same effect that the volcano method does when mulching your tree—it can suffocate the tree and the soil and make it hard for the nutrients to reach the roots.

Also, it is best to have a partner help you. While mulching can be accomplished by one person, it is hard work. In fact, it’s a good idea to stay hydrated and work during the cooler hours of the day. A friend can not only help you with the workload, but they can also check your work to make sure you did not miss anything. Remember, something done wrong can easily become an unfixable problem later, and you want to help your tree, not hurt it.

Mulch Maintenance

Once you have mulched around your tree, you are not done yet. It is still best to tend and water your tree on its normal schedule after that. However, there are some important rules to follow. First, mulch can often have weed seed in it or weeds can see that great fertilizer as an opportune place to grow. Be sure to pull all weeds from the mulch, as this can compromise the fertilizing shield the mulch has formed over the roots.

Just like you want to keep your food clean, you want to do the same for the food your tree will consume. That means keeping it clear of not only weeds but of trash and other potential contaminants.

To do this, rake the mulch when you clean and weed it. This will also keep it from becoming too solidified and choking the plant’s roots or worse not allowing water or nutrients to pass through.

The Right Time for Mulching Your Tree

While there is no set time for mulching your tree, the best time is in the middle of spring, when soil temperatures have warmed enough for roots to get the nutrients that are being applied. This is also a more pleasant time, weather wise, for mulching your tree. The summer can be make this hot work, and too early in the spring it can be too cool.

Mulching your tree should be done once a year. This ensures that the tree is getting the nutrients it needs to continue to grow and stay healthy.

Remember the rule of thumb with trees when mulching: keep the roots damp and fed, and keep the trunk dry and healthy. Do you have questions or want a professional to mulch your trees for you? Contact Acorn Arborists at 916-717-8733 for an appointment. Let our pros help you get the work done right the first time.

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