Mulching and The Importance of Summer Tree Care

Arborists of Washington share all the insider details of proper mulching.

The Whats and Whys of Summer Mulch

When you see a well-landscaped area, it may well seem like an incredible feat of engineering, or just plain magic. Beautifully placed flowers and trees and impossibly neat beds may seem impossible for anyone less than a professional gardener. But if you bring vigilance, hard work, and mulch to the gardening table, you’ll be on your way to that perfect garden you’re envisioning.

Mulch 101: The Basics

Mulch is “material spread around or over a plant to enrich or insulate the soil.” It can be any material “applied to the surface of the soil.”  While mulch is primarily thought of as organic, there are several inorganic options that people see that would technically be defined as mulch.  This is an enormously broad category that covers a wide range of materials.

Mulch Types and Their Uses

Both organic mulch and inorganic mulch have their uses. Both types of mulch can be used in landscaping for aesthetic purposes and for ground insulation. Inorganic mulch is primarily used as a weed barrier and for clear delineation of paths and play areas.

  • Types of Inorganic Mulch:
    • Landscaping Plastic and Rubber (like recycled tires)
    • Pebbles
    • Crusher Dust

Organic mulch is used as a nutrient source for the soil in addition to its other uses.

  • Types of Organic Mulch:
    • Wood chips
    • Bark Nuggets
    • Grass Clippings
    • Leaves
    • Shredded Newspaper
    • Hay
    • Compost
    • Manure

The Natural Benefits of Mulching

In the wilderness, dead leaves and sticks fall from trees, animals leave their deposits in the shade. All of these decay and return nutrients to the soil. Mulching is basically the human way of imitating this natural process of decay and renewal that takes place This is perhaps the primary reason for mulching. There are, however, many others:

  • Temperature Regulation: Mulch insulates the soil keeping it cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
  • Moisture Maintenance: Mulch protects the water in the soil, preventing evaporation and allowing for more absorption by the plants and trees that need it.
  • Weed Barrier: Mulch discourages weed germination by blocking sun exposure. Weeds that do grow in the mulch are much easier to remove.
  • Soil Maintenance: The nutrient dump from decaying mulch has already been mentioned, but somewhat counterintuitively, soil is less likely to become compacted when it is mulched. It stays soft and the roots can penetrate it for a stronger tree or plant structure above and below.

Using Mulch Properly

If proper mulching technique is not used, mulch can actually create problems. Too much mulch can smother roots and inhibit growth. Placing mulch too close to a tree trunk can invite pests and disease to settle into the trunk and may damage and eventually kill the tree.

Mulching Tips:

  • The mulch needs to be no deeper than 4 inches.
  • The optimum depth is 2-4 inches depending on the mulch type you are using.
  • Mulching trees takes special care. Leave open space around the trunk and root flare (the widest part of the tree at the bottom of the trunk), like the hole in the middle of a bagel.
  • Even though organic mulch must be replaced regularly, it is the best choice for mulching plants and trees.

About Seattle Tree Care

Seattle Tree Care has been proudly serving the city of Seattle and the surrounding area since 2006. We are dedicated to keeping this area beautiful and our customers safe. We have emergency tree service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and haul away and recycle all removed trees and branches.

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