How NOT to Mulch a Tree

I drive through neighborhoods daily and see trees mulched improperly.  People want to do the best for their trees and apply the “More is better” principal with disastrous results.

Trees that have been over mulched dry out quicker in hot summer months and are prone to disease and attacks by rodents.  Mulching a tree like a volcano also doesn’t look natural.

If your trees have mulch that looks like a volcano the best thing you can do is remove the excess.  There should only be 2-3″ of mulch around a tree with a minimum of 6″ of space between the mulch and the trunk of the tree.

Be gentle when removing mulch.  You don’t want to damage the tree with your shovel.  Use your hands to remove mulch near the trunk and large roots.  Cleanly cut roots with sharp pruning shears to help them heal more quickly.

The Three Musts of Mulching

Three important tips on how to mulch your landscape.

  1. Never apply mulch deeper than 3 inches.  If the mulch in your landscape is over three inches you must remove some.  Mulch over three inches prevents air, water and nutrients from reaching your trees and shrubs.
  2. Never touch mulch to the base of trees and shrubs.  Leave a gap from six inches to a foot around trees and shrubs.  If mulch is in contact with the bark of trees and shrubs it keeps it moist and encourages insects and disease.
  3. Before re-applying mulch turn your existing mulch.  Over time mulch can become compacted and matted down.  By cultivating your mulch you loosen it up so air and nutrients can make it through.  My favorite tool to cultivate mulch is the Garden Weasel.

Please remember the these tips when planning how to mulch your landscape.

By John Holden