How to Mulch Around Trees and Shrubs

Mulching around trees & shrubs is aesthetically pleasing for your outdoor space. Furthermore, it is beneficial for the health of the plant if it is done correctly.

Benefits of Mulching

​Some of the benefits of mulching include:

  • Retains moisture for tree roots
  • Keeps down weeds
  • Organic mulch decomposes and provides the tree with nutrients
  • Insulates the soil from temperature extremes
  • Adds to the look of a well-landscaped yard
  • Provides a buffer around trees to protect from lawn mower damage

When overdone, some of the same benefits of mulch can become damaging to trees and shrubs if not applied correctly. One common mistake is using too much mulch.

Can You Use Too Much Mulch?

Yes! The practice is often referred to as “volcano mulching”. Volcano mulching is an improper technique where the mulch is piled high, particularly around the trunk of the tree.

We just stated that one of the benefits of mulch is that it retains moisture, but excessive moisture can be damaging. If mulch is piled around a tree trunk, it will retain too much moisture and keep out oxygen. This can lead to rot at the base of the tree, and even kill small trees.

Another problem with having too much mulch is it becomes too deep. The more mulch there is, the more moisture it will hold. This may cause the active root system (only about 12 inches below the ground) to grow upward in search of that moisture. This leads to surface roots, which are unsightly and are not good for the stability and health of trees and shrubs.

How to Properly Much Around Trees

The proper way to spread mulch around trees and shrubs is to:

  1. Keep mulch away from the trunk
  2. Keep mulch at a maximum depth of 3-4 inches

If you are in the practice of adding the same amount of mulch every year, it can be all too easy to accumulate too much mulch. Perhaps you have sufficient mulch depth, but just don’t like the tired look of it after the winter.

Rather than adding inches of new mulch, you could try raking it around or turning to ‘freshen’ it up. Another options is raking out excess mulch, and replace it with just a thin layer of new mulch for a fresh look.

Believe us, your trees and shrubs will thank you! They will be healthier, and last much longer with these proper mulching techniques.