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Tips for Proper Mulching Around Your Trees
Tips for Proper Mulching Around Your Trees
Published by doccat5
05-13-2009
Default Tips for Proper Mulching Around Your Trees

Tips for Proper Mulching Around Your Trees
By doccat5

Mulching is a great way to help maintain these valuable assets in your landscape. It helps the soil retain moisture, and, properly applied eliminates and or curtails the need to weed the area.

Start by removing the grass around the base of the tree out to the end of the drip line. That's the outside edge of where the longest lateral branches reach. You can dig out the grass or sod and move it to the side, put it in your compost bin, or use it to "repair" other bare areas in your lawn.

Or you can choose to cut the grass as short as possible. If you chose this method, you can use either a lawn mower, or if the tree is a mature one that has a root system showing through the top of the ground, you can carefully use a weed whip to get the grass as short as possible. Add about a 2-3 inch layer of wet newspaper to the area before you begin putting in your mulch. It will help smother out any ungerminated weed seed.

Once the grass has been removed, begin to add a layer of mulch of 4 to 6 inches deep to the area, spreading it all the way out to the end of the drip line. Leave an area of about 6 to 8 inches open, around the base of the tree. You do not want a mulch "volcano", as it can cause a multitude of problems by allowing continuous moisture to be trapped in the trunk area. Trapped moisture will cause cankers and splits, and allow disease and pests to attack. Excess moisture in the root zone will stress the plant and cause root rot. Thick blankets of mulch can become matted and prevent water and air from getting to the roots. Roots need oxygen to breathe and without excess mulch and excess water, the trees are actually suffocating.
Adding mulch in a wide circle is the best course to follow.

Mulch Volcanoes

Tips for Proper Mulching Around Your Trees-doccat5mulch-article-2.jpg Tips for Proper Mulching Around Your Trees-doccat5mulch-article-1.jpg

Thoroughly water down the mulched area to help it "settle" in place. Periodically check the area for weeds that may have germinated. The task of weeding should be simple and/or almost nonexistent. Do make it a habit to deep water your trees during drought or prolonged dry spells. By leaving an opening around the base of the tree, it can act as a reservoir for water to be absorbed by your tree.

For fruit and nut trees you might want to consider using a "living" mulch or a cover crop, such as white clover. Cover crops provide good moisture retention and a little nitrogen boost to the trees, as most are nitrogen fixers. They have the additional benefit of attracting bees and other pollinators. The increase in pollination will greatly improve your production of fruit and nuts.
  #1  
By Wild Joy on 11-19-2009, 04:03 PM
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I am familiar with using newspapers under much to prevent weeds, but have a question. You stated

"if the tree is a mature one that has a root system showing through the top of the ground, you can carefully use a weed whip to get the grass as short as possible. Add about a 2-3 inch layer of wet newspaper to the area before you begin putting in your mulch."

I wonder if it is safe to use thick layers of newspaper under trees. Wouldn't that prevent oxygen from reaching the roots? I recently expanded a garden area by covering the grass with several sections (not inches) of wet newspaper and covering with about 3 inches of bark chips. I have started all my gardens this way, with great success.

However when I got close to the mature trees, I stopped, unsure of how to proceed, since I had always heard that too thick a layer of mulch over tree roots could kill the tree. My main concern was whether to use newspaper in these areas, or just a moderate layer of mulch.

Any light you can shed on this would be greatly appreciated!

-- Joy
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  #2  
By swamp thing on 11-19-2009, 07:27 PM
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I think you're right - maybe 2-3 inches of wet newspaper was meant just to kill the grass, then remove it when the mulch is added?

I use a few (5-10, I don't count them) layers of newspaper around the edge of the mulch ring (underneath the mulch) around established trees, just to keep the lawn from creeping in, it works pretty well.
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  #3  
By Equilibrium on 11-20-2009, 12:36 AM
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You'll be good to go using sections of newspaper and 3" of mulch. I sometimes use old jeans and cotton clothing too ragged to wear in public around trees. Works the same for me as when swamp thing uses 5-10 layers of newspaper. The big problem with too much mulch piled up around the base of the trunk is it rots and sends a message to bugs to come on in and help out with the decomposition process. I've seen a couple trees that started putting out roots into the mulch that started choking out the tree. Next time you see one of those mulch volcanoes stroll over and pull some away to look at the bark 6" down. It isn't a pretty sight.
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  #4  
By Wild Joy on 11-20-2009, 12:00 PM
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Thanks to you both for the quick replies. This urgent question is why I joined the forum! I, too, have used newspapers in a ring around the outer edges to keep the grass at bay. I'm hoping that covering all the ground under the tree (except for right around the trunk) with a moderate layer of papers and mulch will not harm the tree. I want to get rid of the grass and improve the soil so I can plant wildflowers.

This method has worked great for starting gardens in open areas of lawn, but I'm a bit nervous about the tree roots. Using cloth is an intriguing idea! If I had enough rags I would probably use them exclusively - sounds more "breathable."

I'd love to hear more from anyone else who has had experience with using papers under trees. It would be great if the author of the article could clear up the 2-3" recommendation. Maybe a typo, but if that's really OK, I'd sure stop worrying and finish my project before the snow flies!
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  #5  
By Equilibrium on 11-21-2009, 01:44 AM
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"Start by removing the grass around the base of the tree out to the end of the drip line. That's the outside edge of where the longest lateral branches reach. You can dig out the grass or sod and move it to the side, put it in your compost bin, or use it to "repair" other bare areas in your lawn." I dig out the grass about 3' from the trunk of an existing tree... not to the drip line... but instead of removing the grass, I flip it upside down. Then I layer newspapers or old jeans and add a coupla inches of mulch. I got to thinking about her 3" of newspaper. That might not have been a typo. All of us have our own way of doing things. I plant trees like the image I drew for you on the left using a mix of soil, compost, and some of the existing soil that I would have set aside digging the hole. I make sure the top of the root ball is about 2-3" above soil grade. There will be settling and I don't want to risk drowning the plant. Warning... I drew this to try to explain what I was thinking and I'm no good at drawing... I did add some leaves for you. Anywho... I've seen people plant them like the image on the right with a very thick layer of newspaper or cardboard followed by 6-8" of mulch leaving a 6-8" doughnut hole around the base of the tree trunk. I wouldn't do it this way but that doesn't mean it doesn't work. The little drawing toward the top is going to be a dead tree. That's a mulch volcano.
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compost, cover crop, eliminate weeds, living mulch, mulch, mulch around tree, mulch for trees, mulch volcano, mulch volcanoes, mulches, mulching, newspaper mulch, proper, proper mulching, proper mulching for trees, soil, tips, tree, tree mulch, trees

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