Tree Mulch

Tree Mulch

How can you create a uniform look to your landscape, while giving your trees the vital elements they need to grow? It ‘s easy. Just add tree mulch. In some other areas of the country, arborists recommend that mulch be applied in the springtime. However I tell my Florida based customers that they can add tree mulch at any time of year.

To assist you in this process, here are some frequently asked questions (and answers) about mulch

What is mulch?

Mulch is any material placed on the ground around trees and plants. It comes in two forms, organic and inorganic. Organic mulch will break down over time and become part of the soil. Inorganic mulch will not. The most popular forms of organic mulch are shredded tree parts, pine bark, pine needles and compost. Examples of inorganic mulch include small rocks such as gravel, pebbles and lava rock as well as recycled rubberized products.

Is organic mulch better than inorganic mulch?

Most arborists prefer organic mulch because it will decompose over time and feed the soil and the tree. In fact, I never recommend inorganic much. However if you insist on using inorganic mulch because it won’t have to be replaced as often, be sure to add fertilizer to help your trees get the nutrients that they need.

Why do trees need mulch?

Trees that grow in the forest have very rich soil with all the essential elements they need to thrive. Leaves and other organic matter cover and feed both the soil and the root system of all these trees. But trees that grow on developed lands are less fortunate. The soil is not as rich and organic matter does not naturally cover the soil around the trees. For these trees we need to mimic the forest floor. Adding mulch creates the environment that nature intended.

What are some of the benefits of mulch?

Mulch can give your landscape a uniform and well-maintained appearance. But there are more practical reasons for applying mulch. Mulch helps aerate the soil and improves soil fertility. Mulch can reduce water loss from the soil by as much as 20% and also impede the growth of weeds. Mulch insulates the soil around the tree keeping it cool in the summer and warm in the winter and it also protects the trunk of the tree from getting struck by lawnmowers.

Can I get mulch from a tree service company?

Yes you can and it’s usually free. But while many reputable tree service companies offer clean quality mulch, some think mulch is whatever comes out of the wood chipper. Their mulch can include palm leaves, vines and poison ivy as well as toxic or diseased trees. In other words, not the kind of mulch you’d want anywhere near your trees.

How much mulch should I apply?

For best results we recommend that you apply between two to four inches of mulch around the tree and if possible, out to the drip line to extend over the entire root system. Some overenthusiastic homeowners will over mulch by piling too much around the base of their trees. This creates what is referred to as, the “volcano effect.” But over mulching can cause a number of problems. It can lead to root rot in some trees when too much moisture is retained in the soil. Over mulching can also negatively affect soil pH, cause insect and disease problems for trees and prevent water and air from reaching the soil and the tree’s roots.

Does mulch attract termites?

No, mulch does not attract termites. Termites like large pieces of wood.

Jon Wilbur is an ISA Certified Arborist and co-owner of Pinellas Tree Service, in Clearwater.

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Jon Wilbur

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