A properly constructed mulch tree ring will not only enhance the beauty of your yard, but it will also enhance the overall health of your trees. Mulch is a protective covering, either organic or inorganic, that is spread over the ground to improve plant growth, reduce evaporation of moisture, and to stop weeds from growing.
Step 1 - Choosing the Right Mulch
Organic mulch, such as wood chips, straw and pine needles, makes an excellent, natural fertilizer for trees because it slowly breaks down to nourish the soil. As well, a ring of mulch around trees not only looks attractive, it also protects the tree's bark from lawn mower or weed trimmer damage.
Mulch has many benefits. Besides improving the soil, mulch also conserves moisture; controls weeds; reduces soil compaction and prevents erosion. Unlike synthetic mulches made of recycled rubber or plastic, as organic mulch breaks down and improves the underlying soil, it eventually has to be replenished.
Step 2 - Prepare the Ground
The best way to mulch around your trees is to create a ring of mulch at least four to six feet in diameter around the base of the tree. The more surface area covered in mulch, the better for your trees.
Start by laying down a circle of wet newspapers around the base of the tree. This will help prevent any weeds from poking up through the mulch. With an already established tree, use a weed trimmer to cut the grass as close to the ground as possible. If the ground is extremely weedy, use a brand-name weed killer. However, use this only as a last resort to insure the continued good health of your trees.
Do not use a commercial weed block or any other types of fabric. Weed blocks or fabric could prevent organic matter from enriching the underlying soil. Further, a fabric also prevents beneficial organisms such as earthworms from living in the fabric-covered soil. This can cause serious problems for a tree if enough of the root zone is covered.
Step 3 - Measure the Depth of Mulch
With a shovel, spread the mulch under trees to a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Trees are very sensitive to the depth of mulch around them. If the mulch is too deep, rain and moisture will be unable to penetrate to the existing root system. Rake the mulch and use a yardstick or tape measure to insure you have the proper depth.
Don't pile your mulch tree ring up against the tree trunk. This creates what is called the "mulch volcano." The moisture in the mulch can eventually cause rot and eventual cracking of the bark. This will allow fungus and insects to penetrate and further damage your trees. Pull the mulch back several inches away from the trunk so that the base of the trunk is exposed to the air.
Step 4 - Finishing Up
After you have applied the mulch, you can use the sharp end of your shovel to edge the grass around the mulch ring. This will help stop grass from infiltrating the mulch ring.
With just a little effort, properly putting down a mulch tree ring will not only make your trees look attractive, but will also help ensure that your trees are healthy and long lived.