Natasha Keshavjee's picture
Posted by Natasha Keshavjee /
©2014 Brenna Anstett/LEAF
Mulching is incredibly important for newly planted trees and shrubs, especially in urban environments! Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, mulch also has many benefits that can improve the overall health of your garden.
 

The majority of tree roots grow outward, not downward, which means most tree roots are found within the top 50cm of soil, often extending 2-3 times the width of the canopy! Applying mulch to the area where your tree’s roots are growing, will greatly improve growing conditions and tree health!

What is mulch?

Mulch is organic material placed over the soil surface to maintain moisture and improve soil quality. Woodchips are often used, but other good forms of mulch include leaves, and coco-husks.

How does it help?

Mulch is great for providing insulation to your soil because just like humans, roots need to be protected from extreme temperatures! Mulch acts like a blanket in the winter, insulating the soil and protecting the roots. 

In urban settings and new developments, soil is often compacted with low organic matter. Mulch increases organic matter as it decomposes and can improve soil fertility, structure and aeration over time. 

Mulch can also prevent potentially fatal lawn mower and weed-whacker damage.  Adding mulch at the base of your tree means these deadly machines won’t damage the bark!

Finally, removing grass and weeds from around your trees, and covering the area in mulch means less competition from other plants, allowing your tree or shrub to grow to its full potential.

General tips for applying mulch

 

  1. Be sure to use only organic materials such as natural, undyed woodchips or leaves from your yard. Avoid any materials that are chemically treated. Avoid stones, rubber or other non-natural materials.
  2. Spread much 8cm thick in a doughnut shape around the base of your tree or shrub.
  3. Ensure that mulch is never piled up around the trunk like a volcano as it can hold in moisture which may cause the bark to rot.
  4. Replenish mulch twice a year - in the spring as the ground thaws and in the fall before the ground freezes.
Now that you know the benefits mulch can provide, be sure to apply a healthy layer of mulch around your trees and shrubs this fall!
©2016 Janet McKay/LEAF ©2014 Brenna Anstett/LEAF

 

 

Comments

Hello, I have a lot of milkweed in our front garden, as well as Solomon's Seal, anemonies and monkshood, etc. We will get a Japanese Katsura tree from the city this fall. How will my plantings affect the tree roots? Thanks! Ellen
Hi Ellen! Thank you for your question! Plant roots can compete for space around a newly planted tree. It is therefore important to apply a ring of mulch around the base of the tree in order to prevent root competition and to keep the plants from growing around the trunk.

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