Is it Important to Spread Mulch Under Landscape Trees?

landscape mulch for your flower beds 300x123Planting brand new trees in your front or backyard helps your entire property appear more attractive. Tall trees even shade your home during the summer, and this landscaping aspect significantly reduces your air conditioning or energy use. However, you can’t simply plant the trees and neglect their care. It is critical to spread mulch under landscaping trees for several specific reasons.

Understanding Tree Root Systems

People often believe that tree roots are a mirror image of their canopies. In fact, tree roots don’t dive deeply into the ground, but they actually spread horizontally within the first 12 inches of the soil. These roots are constantly searching for moisture and nutrients, and the top soil layer is the best place to find these elements. By adding landscape mulch to the surrounding tree base, these roots are protected by another organic layer. They won’t be damaged by foot traffic or lawnmowers, for example.

Shade and Temperature Control

Mulch stretching 3 feet from the tree’s trunk in all directions creates shade for the soil. As the summer sun strikes the ground, soil quickly loses its moisture. If a tree doesn’t have a dense canopy, the ground could be void of ample moisture. The tree will succumb to drought and other damage without ample mulch on the soil. The ground remains cooler with the mulch, and the moisture doesn’t evaporate as readily as it would without the coverage.

Reduced Plant Competition

A mulch depth of 4 to 6 inches is ample enough to ward off unwanted plants growing at the tree’s base. Plant competition is fierce for nutrients and moisture. If a tree is trying to establish itself in the ground, any competition for resources makes it harder for it to grow tall and strong. Plants cannot find sunlight when they’re trapped in mulch, so only the tree’s roots will be in the immediate vicinity for water and nutrients.

Soil Nutrient Benefits of Landscape Mulch

Tree roots constantly spread out from the trunk in search of nutrients. They’ll actually deplete the nutrients in the immediate area unless mulch is present. Organic mulch slowly breaks down over time. This decaying process releases key nutrients into the soil. As a result, the roots have instant access to new nutrients on a consistent basis. Residents simply need to periodically replace the mulch to refresh the nutrient levels.

Compaction Considerations

Tree roots cannot spread in a healthy manner when soil is compacted or too dense. Mulch takes the brunt of any foot traffic while protecting the soil below from compaction. Roots of all sizes can easily move through the ground and find the nutrients they require. Mulch-free areas force tree roots to stay in a limited space, which can stunt their growth.

Ideally, avoid any inorganic mulch use around tree bases. Rocks, plastic, rubber and other materials are long lasting, but they don’t offer the same benefits as organic landscape mulch. Wood chips and bark, for example, are perfectly suited for the tree’s overall health. In the end, you’ll have vigorous tree growth and resilience through the years.