Local Pennsylvania arborists give do’s and don’ts of mulching
All you Could Ever Want to Know About Mulching
The winter snows have faded in the forest and underneath the branches of the newly budding trees is what appears to be the detritus of the previous autumn. Fallen and decaying leaves, branches, and vegetation that fell victim to winter frost litter the ground like the bones of the dead after some hard-fought battle. These leaves and dead plants are not trash, however; they are vital to the continual growth of the forest and its many inhabitants. These seemingly discarded leftovers are precious food and protection for the very trees that deposited them.
This cycle is the natural order of the wilderness, but the average homeowner, with a little assistance from a vegetation management technician, can reproduce this process through the use of mulch.
Mulch: The Basics
When someone buys a bag of mulch in a store, they are purchasing a square foot or so of particulate matter used to cover the ground. It can be used for landscaping, as well as tree and plant health care. It is practical, but can also be used for mainly aesthetic purposes.
A Plethora of Options: Varieties of Mulch
There are two main types of mulch: organic and inorganic. Organic can be used for both nutrient and aesthetic purposes while inorganic mulch is mostly used for landscaping paths and other such areas.
- Organic Mulch:
- Wood Chips
- Grass clippings
- Dead leaves
- Shredded Newspaper
- Inorganic Mulch:
- Landscaping Fabrics
- Shredded Rubber (like recycled tires)
- Crushed Rocks
How Your Trees and Plants Benefit from Mulching
There are many benefits to mulching. Remember that it simulates the cycle that is already present in untamed lands. While the list could go on for quite a while, here are the major reasons to use mulch:
- Nutrients: As organic mulches break down and become part of the soil, they add much-needed chemicals and nutrients for the plants and trees that anchor themselves in the ground. It provides natural soil maintenance.
- Temperature: Mulch provides insulation for soil, to keep it cooler in summer and warmer in winter. A smaller temperature window helps plants’ roots to thrive.
- Weed Barriers: Mulch acts as a natural weed deterrent, the layer of material preventing weed germination in the soil.
- Moisture: Water is more likely to stay in the soil because mulch helps prevent evaporation by shielding the soil from direct sunlight.
- Beautification: Mulch adds a pleasantly groomed aesthetic to garden beds and tree trunks.
How to Mulch
If mulching is not done properly, it can actually do more harm than good. Too much mulch can cause moisture and ventilation problems for roots such as smothering or root rot. Too little mulch provides little to no protection from the elements and will be ineffective at preventing weed growth. The recommended depth is somewhere between 2 and 4 inches, depending on the type of mulch you are using.
Trees also require special care when mulching. Placing mulch up on the trunk of the tree can be an excellent opportunity for bugs and other pests to attack the tree. Leave space around the trunk and do not smother the root bulb.
Still have questions? Our arborists are here to help you with all your tree maintenance needs.
About Greater Pitt Tree Service
After serving our customers in the Pittsburgh area for more than a quarter-century, Greater Pitt Tree Service has expertise in both residential and commercial tree care and risk assessment. We are insured and have highly trained staff that will answer any questions they can.