Should You Mulch Around Trees?

Should You Mulch Around Trees?

A pair of gloved hands hold up a handful of mulch in a close-up view of a tree bed.

If you’re the pondering type, you may have asked yourself “Should I put mulch around my trees?”

In short, yes. You should mulch around your trees. And if it’s a simple hypothetical, to mulch around trees or not, then that’s enough of an answer.

What’s more important in a practical sense is knowing how to apply layers of mulch properly. You want to gain its benefits without experiencing any major downsides.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the mulch pile (but not literally, as we’d get all scratched up). We’ll learn a little more about this useful material. We’ll also review care tips related to applying mulch to the trees on your property.

What is Mulch & What Are Its Advantages?

Mulch is, in a basic and broad definition, material that surrounds or covers a plant. It generally offers a positive benefit to the soil in the area. Those advantages include:

  • Insulating the soil — mulch prevents loss of moisture
  • Reducing weed growth
  • Preventing soil erosion
  • Enhancing soil fertility and quality

Additionally, mulch offers a chance to make aesthetic improvements. It can play a key role in the visual appeal of landscaping along with the more practical benefits outlined above.

What is Mulch Made Of?

Mulch itself can technically be any material applied in a layer to an area of soil. In practical terms, it’s often made of wood chips, sawdust, and various other compostable materials. Organic mulch is a common choice in residential and commercial landscaping.

Grass clippings can be a mulch, for example, or incorporated into a more diverse mulch blend. Stone can be a mulch, and even help trap heat to transfer to plants in cooler climates.

There are also inorganic mulches. These include shredded tires and plastic sheeting. You usually won’t mulch around your trees with these options. But it helps to know how broad the definition of mulch really is.

Should I Mulch Around My Trees? Yes. Here’s How

A close-up view of a pile of mulch.

We offer a full guide to proper mulching techniques and mistakes to avoid. If you still have questions after checking out the information below, you’ll likely find an answer there.

With that in mind, let’s look at some common queries related to mulching.

Is it Safe to Put Mulch Around Trees?

If nothing else, we want to make this one fact clear.

Yes! It’s not just safe to put mulch around trees, but good for the tree as well. Just be sure to apply the mulch appropriately. Keep reading for guidance on how to do exactly that.

Should Mulch Be Kept Away From Tree Trunks?

When you mulch around your trees, make an effort to keep the roots flaring from the base of the tree exposed. The tree roots should have a few inches of clearance between where they appear above ground and the mulch layer.

What you need to avoid is the “mulch volcano.” This is a mound of mulch with the tree trunk appearing to emerge from it.

Kansas State University Research and Extension explains these mulch piles can reduce a young tree’s lifespan or even kill it. Moisture trapped in the mulch can damage the tree trunk, causing rot and irreparable damage. Thick layers of mulch can even lead to root growth in the wrong direction, toward the surface.

Does Mulch Help Mature Trees?

You should add a thin layer of mulch (roughly 2-4 inches) around all of your trees, including mature ones. Mulch reduces soil issues, as outlined above, and supports growth.

By mulching, as well as fertilizing and pruning, you can keep mature trees healthy and avoid common issues that harm them.

Does Mulch Help Young Trees?

Mulch, when applied properly, supports young trees as they grow. Mulch can do everything from supplying additional nutrients to providing a clear visual barrier for lawnmowers and other landscaping tools. That keeps more fragile young trees safe from a common cause of harm.

Is it Better to Put Mulch or Rocks Around Trees?

Rocks are technically a type of mulch, but we don’t want to get too pedantic. 

Rocks can be an effective landscaping tool and are especially good at preventing weeds. However, they don’t offer the same benefits as mulch containing organic, compostable materials. This is a case-by-case consideration — there isn’t an answer that’s right for everyone. 

If you get in touch, we can help you find an answer.

Your Complete Tree Care Partner

We’re happy to help you provide better care for your trees, both online and in person. Monkeyman’s Tree Service is dedicated to the highest standards in tree care in every context. That means everything from employing certified arborists who earn sustainable pay and benefits. It also means using environmentally friendly treatments and keeping our customers informed.

We’re here to support just about any need you have related to your trees. Learn more about our tree care services.