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  • Writer's pictureNewcomb Tree Experts

To Mulch or Not to Mulch? 3 Tips to Proper Tree Mulching

Updated: Apr 29

shoveling mulch newcomb tree experts

Mulching around trees is a common practice in gardening and landscaping, but it's not always clear-cut whether it's beneficial or not. Done correctly, mulching can provide numerous benefits to trees, such as retaining moisture, regulating soil temperature, and suppressing weeds. However, improper mulching can do more harm than good, leading to root rot, pest infestations, and even the death of the tree. So, let's delve into the intricacies of tree mulching and explore three essential tips for doing it right.

3 Tips to Proper Tree Mulching

1. Know Your Mulch and Depth

Not all mulches are created equal, and choosing the right type is crucial for the health of your trees. Organic mulches like wood chips, shredded bark, or compost are excellent choices as they decompose over time, adding organic matter to the soil and improving its structure. Inorganic mulches like rocks or rubber chips may provide a neat appearance, but they don't contribute to soil health.

When it comes to mulch depth, less is often more. A layer of mulch 2-4 inches thick is usually sufficient to reap the benefits without suffocating the tree's roots. Avoid piling mulch directly against the trunk, as this can create a moist environment conducive to rot and pest infestations. Leave a few inches of space between the mulch and the trunk to allow for air circulation.

2. Practice the Donut, Not the Volcano

proper tree mulching around a tree base

One of the most common mistakes in tree mulching is creating what is known as a "mulch volcano" – a large mound of mulch piled up against the trunk of the tree. This practice can lead to a host of problems, including excess moisture retention, root suffocation, and the promotion of disease and pest infestations. Instead, opt for the "mulch donut" method. Spread the mulch in a flat layer around the base of the tree, extending out to the drip line if possible. This allows for even moisture distribution and encourages root growth outward rather than upward. Remember, the goal is to mimic the natural forest floor, where trees benefit from a layer of organic matter covering their roots.

3. Monitor and Maintain

Mulching isn't a one-and-done task; it requires regular monitoring and maintenance to ensure its effectiveness and the health of your trees. Periodically check the mulch layer for signs of compaction, decay, or weed growth. If the mulch has become matted or compacted, gently loosen it with a rake to allow for better air and water penetration.

Additionally, replenish the mulch layer as needed, typically once a year in the spring. Before adding new mulch, rake away any old mulch that has decomposed to prevent excessive buildup. This fresh layer will continue to provide insulation, moisture retention, and weed suppression for your trees.


Proper tree mulching can be a boon to your landscaping efforts, promoting the health and vitality of your trees. By selecting the right mulch, maintaining the proper depth and distribution, and staying vigilant with monitoring and maintenance, you can enjoy the benefits of mulching while avoiding common pitfalls. So, the next time you find yourself wondering whether to mulch or not to mulch, remember these three essential tips for proper tree mulching. Your trees will thank you for it!

If you'd like a consultation on the health of your tree(s), feel free to reach out here.

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