Many landscape trees are planted in the middle of a lawn, without even a landscape bed around them. The tree’s mulching needs and the mulching needs for the rest of the lawn are typically quite different.
Here are some of the basics you should know about mulching your tree and mulching the grass of your lawn.
Mulching Your Tree
Trees grow just fine in nature without a carefully described circle of mulch around them. However, in a landscape setting, your tree doesn’t have the same conditions it would have in a woodland setting. Mulch can help make up the difference.
Benefits of Mulch Around a Tree
Some of the top reasons why mulch is beneficial for the tree include:
- Mulch keeps grass from competing for nutrients
- Mulch holds in moisture
- Mulch breaks down to provide organic material for the soil
In addition to the benefits for tree health, a layer of mulch around a tree can also have aesthetic benefits. For example, once the tree gets very dense and shady, any grass under it could start to look straggly, and a layer of mulch keeps things tidier.
Mistakes to Avoid When Mulching Around a Tree
One common mistake is to create a volcano-shaped layer of mulch around a tree. Piling the mulch against the tree trunk like this could keep the tree’s bark excessively damp in that area, which in turn could encourage rot to move in. Instead, make sure you place an intentional gap between the tree’s bark and the mulch itself.
Another mistake to avoid is a too-small circle of mulch. A large enough mulch circle is especially important if you’re concerned about grass roots competing with the tree’s roots. Although some tree roots can go very deep, many of the tree’s roots grow within the top 18 inches of the soil’s surface.
A large mulch circle to prevent grass competition can help the tree thrive. In an ideal situation, you’d lay a circle of mulch all the way out to the tree’s drip line, then enlarge the circle as the tree grows. If your tree wasn’t cared for this way in the past, your tree and lawn care contractor can help you enlarge the tree’s mulch circle to the correct diameter.
Types of Mulch to Use Around a Tree
Typically, biodegradable mulches are common and beneficial options. Bark, wood chips, or pine straw can be good options since they break down over time and provide a source of nutrients. Other examples of biodegradable mulch include straw, dried shredded leaves, and paper mulch.
Mulching Your Lawn
Unlike a tree, your lawn can’t handle a layer of mulch several inches thick. So for lawn care, you’ll need to use different techniques and often different materials.
Benefits of Mulching Your Lawn
Mulching a lawn typically means leaving small amounts of material scattered over the lawn. The material will work its way down to the roots of the grass and provide biodegradable material to feed the soil. Some benefits include:
- Overall soil improvement
- Support for beneficial organisms such as earthworms
- An extra source of nutrients for your grass
These benefits can help you keep your lawn strong and healthy, so it can flourish and resist pests and disease.
Materials to Use for Mulching Your Lawn
Some recommended materials to use for mulch on a lawn include grass clippings from the lawn and fallen leaves (such as from your landscape trees).
Another type of mulch you can use on your lawn in limited scenarios is oat straw. Sprinkling oat straw lightly over an area of ground just after you seed it with grass seed can help improve seed germination.
Mistakes to Avoid When Mulching Your Lawn
Using the wrong amount of mulch is a common mistake. Rather than a thick layer of the material, you just need a generous sprinkling that doesn’t block sunlight from the grass.
The mulching procedure for a lawn varies based on the material used; for example, it can involve simply leaving grass clippings where they lie, rather than collecting them as you mow. Mulching with fallen leaves typically involves spreading shredded leaves over your lawn. Or, use a mower or leaf shredder on fallen leaves that have already spread across your lawn.
Other mistakes to avoid include mulching in peak growing season. For example, in the springtime when grass grows very quickly and creates a high volume or thick mats of clippings, using all the grass clippings as mulch could start to smother the grass. Your lawn care professionals can help you determine when is the right time to leave clippings on the lawn as mulch.
These basics of mulching can help you use mulch successfully on your trees and your lawn in different amounts and ways for the best results. Get in touch with your tree and lawn care experts at Schulhoff Tree & Lawn Care for assistance with choosing and implementing the best mulch practices for your trees and your lawn.