Spring is just around the corner, which means many of us will soon be planting small trees and shrubs to beautify our landscapes. Once the job of planting is over, don’t forget one very important step… mulching! Mulch is a young tree’s best friend. It holds down competing weeds or grass, retains moisture (especially beneficial once the hot weather rolls around), prevents soil cracking that can damage new roots, protects the trunk from lawnmower damage, and helps prevent soil compaction.
Common mulches include bark, wood chips, licorice root, pine needles, decorative gravel, and crushed lava. Organic mulches such as licorice root, bark, or pine needles also contribute to better soil structure and aeration as they decompose. If using stone, avoid limestone rock. Spread the mulch to a diameter of at least 3 feet with about a 2” thickness. Don’t pile any higher than 3” and most importantly, do not allow the mulch to touch the tree’s trunk. Over the next few years of the tree’s life, this can create many problems, one of the most common being that the bark tissue begins to stress and decay, allowing plant diseases and insects to gain entry into the trunk.