If you learn how to mulch effectively, you will improve your tree and landscaping experience in many ways. You will improve the beauty of your landscape and the health of your tree, as well as reducing some of the work that you have to do, like watering and fertilizing. It is, however, very important that it is done correctly, or it can be counter-productive!
Mulching is when you cover the ground with wood chips, grass, leaves, or rocks, although most of the time you’ll use wood chips. There are several direct benefits to doing this with wood mulch: it impacts the moisture retention, nourishes, and can increase the aesthetic value of the tree.
One of the main ways mulching helps you is that it retains moisture in the soil surrounding the tree by protecting the soil from the sun to prevent evaporation. Applying it also decreases the likelihood of water running away out from the soil during watering or rainfall as the mulch will soak up water. It’s not easy to find time to make sure our trees are watered properly, but mulch significantly reduces the concern there.
Mulching is also said to help keep away grass and plants. Plants around the tree detract from a tree by stealing nutrition and moisture from the base of the tree, however insignificantly. Also, when cutting the grass with a weedeater, it can damage the bark of the tree. You will have to keep an eye on the mulch as it disintegrates and be ready to pile more mulch on (maybe once a year) to keep it at its original depth. That way, you will continue to block the sunlight from the weeds as they sprout.
As mulch decomposes, it will add beneficial nutrients to the soil as well as preventing nutrients from leaching out. If you want to give it a nutritional boost, then add some sort of composted material as a mulch. Mulch will loosen the soil, giving the roots more room to breath. It has such a significant benefit to plant life, that some gardeners create great beds of mulch to garden in, with very good results.
Finally, if you have fruit trees, you can mulch even further out to provide a clean surface for the fruit to fall on --no more long forgotten rotten fruit at the bottom of your tree.
So, now that you know the manifold benefits of mulching, how do you apply mulch in the first place? Here are a few tips:
Spread the mulch out evenly under any trees or shrubs on your property. It is suggested that you spread the mulch out to the drip line of the branches, or at least at a radius of 4-5 feet.
The recommended depth for mulch is 3-4 inches
Make sure that the mulch is not piled up on the trunk, as this will encourage rotting, disease, but even more significantly, mounding the mulch can encourage the tree to begin to build its root system into the mound of mulch instead of the firm underlying soil.