Tips For Applying Tree Ring Mulch

Applying tree ring mulch is not as simple as piling a mound of wood chips knee-high around a tree's trunk. Mulching is a method of preventing weed growth, preserving soil moisture, protecting the tree from hedgers and mowers, improving soil aeration and enhancing the tree's access to nutrients. Improper mulching techniques can counteract all these good intentions, so be careful to do the following:

  • Mulch when the ground is still moist, rather than wait until the tree has begun to suffer from a lack of water. Late spring is typically the best time.

  • Choose the right type of mulch. Organic mulches can provide additional nutrients and are typically better for the environment than inorganic mulches. If using organic mulches, especially wood chips, make sure they are finished compost, meaning they have been decomposing for at least 2 years.

  • Make a buffer zone between the tree trunk and the mulch to prevent too much moisture from causing mold growth and cracking at the base of the tree. At least 6 inches of mulch-free space around the trunk is advisable.

  • Limit mulch depth. Too thick a layer of mulch will reduce aeration, trap too much moisture, and limit root diffusion (ultimately resulting in drought susceptibility). For best results, use only 2 to 4 inches.

  • The mulch ring should extend about as far away from the trunk of the tree as the roots, which is typically beyond the reach of the branches. The farther the ring extends, the more free access the tree will have to nutrients in the ground below without competing with weeds and other plants. The diameter of the ring should be at least 4 to 6 feet.