Finally, the last article on mulching (thank god, I hear you say below your breath….) Reprinted from the Kent County Daily Times, here’s the best way to mulch a tree.
Mulch is typically applied at the beginning of the growing season, after seedlings have been planting or perennial plants have emerged but before weed seeds have the chance to germinate. Applied in early spring, it encourages plant growth by keeping the soil warm. It should be applied before it gets too hot so that it can help keep the soil moist during hot spells.
Mulch is usually sold by the cubic yard. Experts recommend no more than two to three inches of mulch be applied. For areas that have been previously mulched, it’s best to refresh the mulch application each year by adding an extra inch.
The benefits of mulch are indisputable, but resist the urge to overmulch your garden beds and trees. Too much mulch creates excess moisture and can lead to root rot. It can create an imbalance in soil chemistry and may limit oxygen, a potentially toxic condition. Overmulching can cause insect and rodent infestations, as well as unwelcome fungi and diseases. A too-thick layer of mulch can become a heavily-matted barrier that actually prevents water from reaching plants.
Organic mulch is usually better for mulching trees. Choose mulch such as wood chips or shredded tree bark that will decompose to meet the nutrient needs of the tree.
When mulching trees, the mulch should not touch the tree trunk. The mulch ring should resemble a doughnut, not a volcano. The “doughnut hole” keeps mulch away from the trunk and allows important gaseous exchange to occur near its roots and prevents root rot. The mulch doughnut should be as wide as possible—preferably extending to the outer edge of the tree’s canopy.
The above picture shows a properly mulched tree–notice how the “doughnut hole” in the middle keeps mulch away from the trunk and the base of the trunk.