With spring underway, I am noticing many trees being redressed in new mulch. This is a great way to help them as they prepare for the summer months.

There are different ways to lay down mulch. Some will protect plants and lessen the chances of harming your property’s valuable trees, while others don’t. Let’s call it the bowl versus the volcano methods.

Mulching the base of trees helps in many ways, especially newer plants. One to three inches of mulch is recommended for the first three years to help moisture in the soil, lower the chance of trunk damage from mowers or weed eaters and to help keep soil temperatures from fluctuating around the roots.

Other advantages of mulching around trees are that it helps reduce soil compaction and deters weeds and grasses from invading and taking moisture from the root system.

The best way to execute this task is putting the mulch in a bowl shape around the drip line of a new tree. This will keep the trunk free from debris which may attract insects, excessive moisture, disease and rot. The open bowl will also hold water long enough to seep down into the surface roots within the drip line, which is invaluable to an establishing tree.

Many people will apply mulch around trees similar to a volcano, where it goes up the trunk. This method covers up the flare at the base of the tree trunk and may smother it and the root system below.

Mulch shaped in a bowl allows air around the trunk and roots.

The volcano mulching method might also keep adequate water from reaching the surface roots but insects will be attracted around the trunk, increasing the likelihood of insect penetration.

I hope this suggestion helps you if you decide to place mulch around your trees. The time a tree is established is the most crucial. If your tree starts out healthy, you’ll enjoy it for years to come.

Darla Menking is a certified Bell County Texas Master Gardener and a Texas Master Naturalist. Email her at darla.menking@gmail.com.

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