In Exmark Ambassador and former landscape pro Brian Latimer’s last video, he talked all about the first two steps to tree planting with a promise for a video covering the third. In this video, he does just that as he explains how to mulch around your recently planted tree.
To recap: the two steps before mulching are picking the right spot and digging the hole the right way.
Why You Should Mulch Around Trees
B.Lat explains that there are three different reasons to add mulch to your tree beds.
When you add what’s called a “tree ring,” you give your planting project a beautiful, finished look.
- Water Retention
You’ve got to keep moisture in the root ball in order to keep the tree alive. Adding mulch helps to keep the root ball nice and moist which means you can avoid having to water “every thirty seconds” as Latimer says.
You might be wondering “How does mulch prevent compaction?” Well, especially when you’re planting ornamental trees, you plant them in your yard. And one of the most important things you do in your yard is mow! Mowing circles around your trees creates compaction and that compaction prevents the roots from spreading. That will lead to root girdling which will kill your tree over time. The tree ring keeps the mower weight and the compaction off the buttress roots.
Maybe you’re wondering what kind of mulch to use when you mulch around your trees. Latimer’s got you covered on that, too! He says there are three different mulch choices.
- Hardwood or pine mulch, which is basically bark.
- Pine straw, which B. Lat says “works okay.”
- Manufactured mulch, which is made from recycled wood.
Common Mulching Mistakes
As you begin to mulch around your trees, you should avoid three different mistakes Latimer says are common during mulching.
- Don’t create a tree ring that’s too small.
If you build a tree ring that’s too small, you’re going to compact the soil close to the ring. If you’re unsure how to know the proper size of your tree ring, use the tried and true “drip line” method.
The “drip line” method involves wrapping a string around the width of your tree, pulling it out to the edge of the tree canopy, and setting it down. That’s the “drip line” and how big your circle will be!
Pro tip: If you’re working with a smaller, new planting, Latimer recommends going three times the size of your drip line.
- Don’t over mulch.
If you over mulch, you’ll smother the roots of the tree which will kill the roots eventually. If it’s an existing tree, Latimer says to never put more than one inch of mulch on top of the existing layer. If it’s a new planting, use three inches.
- Avoid “Volcano” mulching.
“Volcano” mulching is when the mulch is pushed up into a mound around the bark of the tree. Unfortunately, that mulch can create a lot of fungus around the bark and kill your tree. Instead of the “volcano,” you’ll want to mulch flat and keep the mulch away from the bark.
Remember: Roots need as much air as they need water!
Now that you’ve got the last step in the tree-planting process, you’re ready to get started!