Ways You are Loving Your Trees to Death – Mulch

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It’s hard to imagine that as society becomes more aware and proactive about saving our environment, we could be damaging the trees that we are working so hard to save. With the influx of information that we have it can be difficult to determine where we can help. One of the easiest ways to get involved is to properly maintain what you already have.

In this series, we are going to cover several areas where people think that they are improving/helping their trees but may be doing more harm than good. These areas are mulching, watering, tree supports, and pruning.

We will have an in depth look at these common practices and discover whether they are beneficial and what we should be doing.

Mulching – Too Much of a Good Thing

Property owners’ willingness to improve their landscape has made mulching one of the most noticeable and effective methods for improving our properties. The Plant Health Care industry has flourished with the use of mulch and almost everywhere you go you can see various colours of mulch throughout everyone’s gardens. In a 2016 article by Soil and Mulch Producer News, Robert LaGasse said that “coloured mulch now accounts for almost 70 percent of the market”. When we look at all of these aesthetically pleasing sites, we assume the owners must really love their plants.

The one thing that we don’t regularly ask ourselves is, are they doing this properly? We assume because it looks good and “everyone’s doing it “that we must follow the trend. But, if our goal is to do what’s best for our trees, then we need to make sure we understand what we are doing and making sure we are doing it properly. A common trend is to apply an excessive amount of mulch and pile the mulch high up the trunk of the tree. But what are the benefits and the drawbacks from doing it this way.


The Good

  • Mulch decomposes and increase organic matter into your soil
  • Mulch retains moisture so that it is available for the tree during periods of drought
  • Mulch helps reduce the competition from weeds and grass
  • Mulch increases the aesthetics of your garden and landscape
  • Mulch reduces compaction and helps provide pore space in the soil
  • Mulch reduces the likelihood of mechanical damage from lawnmowers and line trimmers
  • Mulch can help with temperature control for the roots of your trees

The Bad

  • The mulch does not allow the trunk of the tree to breathe and can begin to rot the trunk
  • This excessive mulch can cause roots to establish above grade, and prevent the trees roots form establishing deep into the soil
  • The mulch can create a habitat for mice and other small rodents which will eat away at the trunk of the tree
  • Mulch can suffocate the tree roots and not allow water to penetrate the soils
  • Requires more mulch and adds to your cost

Our Truth

The statistics don’t lie, mulch is the most effective thing we can do to improve our trees vitality and the health of our trees. Also as a bonus it happens to be one of the most cost effective things that we can do. But the problem is how do I get the good without the bad?

The answer is making sure that you are informed and following proper mulching applications. Mulch should be 2-4 inches in depth and cover the root zone of the tree. The best practice is to cover the ground that is within the drip line of the tree. But since this is sometimes unattainable just do as much area as you can. The process that is used to dye mulch can eliminate some of the nutrients in the mulch and make it take longer to break down.

So if possible use natural mulch but remember, we can get caught up on dyed mulch vs. natural mulch and forget that any mulch is better than no mulch at all.

It is amazing to see how much awareness and effort is being put into planting and maintaining trees. It is just a shame to think that all the hard work may not yield the proper results. Be sure to consult an arborist when planning the tree work around your property. UTS tree care employs professional and educated arborists who want to care for your trees and inform you of their specific needs.

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