It’s often said that mulch is a tree’s best friend, and there are a number of reasons why that’s true. But it’s not only newly planted trees that benefit from a generous layer of mulch. Established trees also thrive from the extra nourishment provided by this rich, organic material.
What is mulch?
Mulch is simply a layer of organic or inorganic material that is spread around the base of plants and trees. Of course, organic mulch is far superior to inorganic mulch because has the ability to decompose, releasing vital nutrients into the soil. Organic mulch usually consists of plant material such as twigs and leaves, bark chips or nut shells.
Inorganic mulch refers to pebbles or gravel. These materials last much longer because they don’t decompose but they’re best used in shady areas or around plants that don’t require much water. That’s because they tend to heat up in the sun which raises the temperature of the soil. And unlike organic mulch, they don’t feed the soil.
How mulch contributes to tree health
It’s obvious that mulching helps with retaining moisture; forming a barrier between the soil and the air which prevents evaporation. But here are some other benefits of mulching you may not be aware of:
Mulching improves the soil structure
In a forest, trees aren’t surrounded by a neatly manicured layer of grass. Their roots are covered with organic material that enriches the soil as it decomposes. Mulching can help you achieve the same effect in your garden.
Mulching moderates the soil temperature
When the soil is insulated with a layer of mulch, it isn’t prone to fluctuations in temperature. This protects the soil and the roots of the tree from scorching sun in summer and frost in winter. It also protects against water evaporation by wind which means that you won’t have water your trees as much in summer.
Mulching aids in water retention and prevents soil erosion
The mulch creates a spongy barrier which lets water in and stops it running off. At the same time, it stops the loose soil from being broken up and dispersed by the force of the water.
Mulch supresses weeds and competition from other plants and grasses
Once again, because the mulch acts as a barrier it prevents weed seeds already in the soil from germinating and growing. It also stops other plants and grasses from encroaching on your tree’s space and draining the soil of nutrients.
Putting mulch around your trees can also protect against weed-eater and lawn mower damage. It’s a very simple method of preserving and nurturing your trees and, if you opt for organic mulch, it’s completely natural.
However, too much of a good thing can be dangerous, and this applies to mulch too. An overly thick layer of mulch can suffocate the roots of a tree. It’s better to add small amounts of mulch around your trees over a period of time.
When used correctly, mulch recreates the nourishing conditions one would find on the floor of a forest. This is the ideal environment for tree roots, aiding the growth and survival of your trees.
Look out for a future post on the correct way to lay mulch around a tree.