Last Updated on February 14, 2021 by Matt Gardener
In this guide, we’ll be looking at how to mulch around trees and shrubs the right way.
Mulching is both decorative and functional. There’s no arguing that mulching shrubs and trees is a beautiful idea. It helps to preserve soil moisture, suppresses weeds, protects the tree trunks from damage, etc.
Typically, mulching is an organic material carefully spread on the surface of the soil to protect roots from cold, heat, and drought, and to supply adequate nutrients to plants as it decomposes.
However, while mulching trees and shrubs come with countless benefits, it does fires back when you do it the wrong way.
Once you have selected the correct plant for a given site and followed the right planting process, the next step should be to mulch the plant to create a stable environment for root growth.
Now, let’s learn the best way to mulch trees and shrubs:
Read Also: Best Garden Mulches
How To Mulch Around Trees And Shrubs
To start, you’ll need to following tools and materials:
- Mulch material
Once these things are ready, the first step is to choose the right mulch. Organic mulches are the ideal choice for trees and shrubs, and woodchips and bark mulch are perhaps the most common materials used.
But while organic mulch adds to the overall health of your soil, it attracts insects and may be combustible. These mulches decompose at different rates, depending on the climate, size, and composition of the pieces.
Additionally, large chunks of bark last the longest, while shredded leaves and grass clippings need constant replacement. Sand mulch or inorganic stone is fireproof and is suitable for coastal landscapes and arid, but may attract ants and cats.
After you’ve chosen a mulch, start by weeding the area where you’ll apply the mulch.
1. Determine mulch area: When mulching, the plant’s size and turning radius of your mower will determine the shape and size of the mulch area. Calculate the area that needs covering in square feet, then using the mulch calculator, determine how much mulch will be required.
If possible, mulch out to the edge of the widest branches or its drip line. Then group trees and shrubs into beds, rather than mulching around individual plants. This will help you to unify your landscape plantings and save mowing time.
2. Get rid of turf and weeds: Clear all the grass and weeds from the area you want to cover. This will prevent them from growing up via the mulch. You can pull weeds by hand or simply hoe them out.
3. Remove lawn grass by using a spade to slice under it: While doing this, you want to be very careful to dig into only the top 2-3 inches of the soil. Then shake the soil out of the turf before throwing it away to maintain the soil depth around your shrubs and trees.
4. Spread the mulch: Use 2-4 inches of mulch to cover the cleared area. The mulch should be raked into a flattened doughnut shape, making sure to keep it at least 6-inches away from the stems of the plant or trunk.
After this, make a neat outer edge by leaving a little gap between the edge of the surrounding lawn and the mulch.
5. Maintain mulch: The mulch should be replaced as needed during the growing season to maintain the 2-4 inch depth. If you’re using organic mulch, rake up and replace it in the spring, especially around fruit trees and roses.
What to Keep in Mind When Mulching Around Trees and Shrubs
While a little mulch is good, too much of it can be disadvantageous. You may be tempted to apply a fresh layer each spring, but that may not be necessary. This is because if you spread much more than 3-inches of mulch, problems can start to develop.
Deep mulching can lead to excess moisture and invite disease, rodents, and insects to take up residence. Lots of well-meaning gardeners usually harm their plants by building “mulch volcanoes,” which is done by piling mulch up around the plant’s trunk.
When you pile excessive mulch against the bark, it may start to decompose, resulting in further disease and insect issues. Additionally, trees that escape rot problems may begin to grow new secondary roots from the trunk.
Sadly, these secondary roots are liable to girdling the primary roots and trunk. That’s not all; excess mulch can equally create a home for voles that eat the bark off of trees, often leading to their death.
The symptoms and effects of over-mulching may take years to surface, but it is safe to believe that an over-mulched tree is in for a long, slow, but inevitable death.
Furthermore, it’s also advisable to lay landscape fabric under gravel mulch to prevent weeds. Do not use plastic mulch for shrubs or trees as it prevents air and water from reaching roots. Preferred mulches for this purpose include:
- Bark chunks
- Weed-free straw
- Shredded and composted fir bark
You also want to avoid weedy hay, water-repellant peat moss, and toxic mulches made from eucalyptus, pressure-treated lumber, walnut, cedar sawdust, or redwood.
Finally, never use mulch that smells like ammonia, sulfur, or vinegar.
The short video below shows you how to edge and mulch around trees:
Hopefully, you now know how to mulch around shrubs and trees, and as you can see, it’s actually very easy. Mulching is a very important aspect of gardening, and we suggest you try it in your gardens, such as your tomatoes, cucumber, and other plants.
If you have any questions about mulching, don’t hesitate to reach out to us immediately.