The Proper Way to Mulch Your Trees

The Proper Way to Mulch Your Trees

The fresh spring air is finally starting to make its debut, and we’ll bet you’re itching to take a walk through your favorite outdoor spot.

The trees you see on your walk through the woods are not only a beautiful sight—they’re giving you a lesson to take back to your landscape!

Take a tip from trees in the natural setting when you tackle mulching. Proper tree mulching helps trees retain water, combat weeds and regulate soil temperature. Below, we answer the most common questions about how to apply mulch to trees.  

Should I spread my compost pile around trees and shrubs in spring? Then add mulch on top?

Yes. Spread compost around your plants, then let it work its way into the soil with rain or watering. Wait until a later date to apply mulch, keeping in mind our proper mulching methods below.

Our reader, Cynthia, recently asked this question. If you have any tree questions, post them in the comments section below, and we’ll get an answer for you shortly!

What is the best way to mulch a tree?

Spread 2 to 4 inches of mulch evenly around the perimeter of the tree. More info on that below!

The key is to let nature be your guide. Trees in a natural setting aren’t covered up to their trunks. A rule of thumb is to keep the trees’ root flare—the spot where the tree trunk ends and the roots begin—free of mulch.

Volcano mulching, or piling mulch up against the trunk or stem of a tree, creates a cool, damp hideaway that attracts fungus, disease and pests.

How much mulch should I apply to my trees?

2 to 4 inches of mulch layered around the base of your tree is all you need.

First, spread the mulch around your tree, then use a rake or shovel to evenly pull the mulch out to the furthest edges of the tree’s canopy.

Take a look at this Talking Trees video to see the process for yourself.

Mulching is just one way to protect your plants in the growing season.

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  • The Tree Doctor August 28, 2018 >Hi Shirley, Pine needles make an excellent mulch. Because they tend to acidify the soil as they break down, they are excellent as mulch for acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, azaleas, and holly. They can also be used in the vegetable garden as well.
  • shirley bailey August 27, 2018 >can i use pine needles for mulching. I have lots and don't want to buy mulch it i can use this.
  • The Tree Doctor July 23, 2018 >Hi Larry, I recommend having a certified arborist come out to take a look. They will be able to accurately diagnose the tree and prescribe a treatment plan if necessary. Unfortunately, Davey Tree does not service your area based on the zip code provided. Here is a resource that may help you with your search for a certified arborist or reputable tree care company: http://www.davey.com/arborist-advice/articles/hiring-a-tree-service-provider-or-an-arborist/. Hopefully, this helps. Best of luck to you, Larry.
  • Larry Singleton July 16, 2018 >I have an oak tree about 4 years old and the leaves at the very top are drying out as if it's fall. It's July and it's only at top and working it's way down. Also it seems like bark is missing on tree joints where limbs extend from trunk.
  • The Tree Doctor June 12, 2017 >Hi Debbie! If you would like to edge around your tree, we recommend making sure it doesn’t go too far into the ground. You will only need to go down an inch or two get a nice clean edge around your mulch bed. Here if you have any other questions, Debbie.
  • Debbie Freeland June 9, 2017 >Just watched your video and read the article about mulching trees. I noticed that in the video, there is a bare ring of soil around the tree where the turf has been removed. My question: Keeping mulch out of the surrounding grass is tough to do, and constant work. But I'd worry about sinking metal edging around the tree because I'd be afraid I'd damage tree roots. What do you recommend?
  • Miles Danforth April 5, 2016 >Thanks for sharing as it is an excellent post would love to read your future post.
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