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Mulch – but not too much!

Mulch is a useful tool that benefits and beautifies your landscape in many ways, but you need to make sure you’re installing it correctly in order for plants to reap those benefits instead of suffer. Unfortunately, many landscaping companies install “mulch volcanos,” and we see so many instances of these around town that it’s practically burned into our minds as the correct way to do it! WRONG! Some might find these volcanos to be visually appealing, but boy do they make us arborists cringe! 

The benefits of mulching:

  • Soil moisture retention.
  • Soil temperature control.
  • Reduces root competition between trees, weeds and grass.
  • Improves soil fertility over time (kind of like the forest floor!)
  • Reduces soil compaction from foot traffic.
  • Keeps weed whackers and lawn mowers away from the trunk and surface roots.
  • It looks nice. Unless you do it wrong. Mulch volcanos: Ugly. Mulch volcanos: BAD!

How to correctly install mulch:

  • Keep mulch away from the trunk. Bark that is constantly damp is an invitation for disease, fungus and insects.
  • Keep it shallow. No more than 2-3″, please! 
  • Expose the root collar. Make sure the flare is visible at the bottom of the tree. Surface roots can actually grow upward, girdling the trunk and strangling the tree. Yes! STRANGLING! 
  • Take it out the drip line (if you can). While this may not be feasible for all landscapes, it’s most beneficial for the tree. As a bonus, you don’t have to mow under the tree, exposing surface roots to lawn mower damage. It can be a real struggle to grow grass under a tree, anyway! Give up and install mulch!

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