Whether mulching is necessary is a very common question asked by many people. Yes, proper mulching under trees is necessary for a tree's health. It helps in preventing soil erosion, and also prevents light from reaching the surface of the soil. This works as an efficient remedy against any weed growth. As the mulch decays, it enriches the soil by adding nutrients to it. Thus, using the product obtained from composting as a mulch acts as a good fertilizer. It helps the soil to retain the moisture, thus preventing evaporation. Mulch is spread in a slope around the tree or plant, so the possibility of a lawn equipment, like a lawn mower, running over a tree or shrub is lessened. In landscaping, mulch is also very commonly used to beautify an area.
There are two types of mulch, viz., organic and inorganic. Organic mulch is prepared using natural substances, like leaves, bark of trees, grass, vegetable waste, etc. It contains natural substances, and therefore, it decomposes easily. Inorganic mulch is a mixture of both natural and artificial substances, like pebbles, rubber, black plastic, etc., and it does not decompose. It is a good choice if you have a weed problem.
How Much to Mulch
Mulches should be around 2 - 4 inches high for trees. This is the appropriate height required that gives an effective covering to the soil. However, to calculate the amount of mulch required, there are two major factors to be considered. The first one is the area of your garden, while the second factor is the amount of mulch depth in inches. To calculate the square foot of the mulch area, calculate the total area of the garden and subtract the area occupied by plants. Knowing the regular thickness of mulch according to different constituting substances also helps in making an easy decision. For example, if the mulch is made of compost, the thickness will be around 1 - 3 inches; if it is made of leaves, it will be around 4 - 5 inches thick; and a peat moss mulch will be about 1 inch thick.
How to Mulch
The first step is to clean the area before mulching. Remove all the grass, weeds, and leaves near the tree, and create a circular border of stones around it. This border should be around 3 inches diameter. Using your hands, spread the mulch with the required thickness, and then settle it by watering.
To mulch around plants, clean the area of any weeds or leaves, and form a circle made of medium-sized rocks. This circle should be around 2 ½ inches in diameter. Spread a 2-inch thick layer of mulch with your hands. Also, make sure that it is at least 2 inches away from the stems of the plant.
Right Time for Mulching
Mulching is beneficial throughout the year. However, follow these tips for different seasons. For autumn, use a thick layer of mulch for the trees around 4 inches high. In winter, provide the trees with an extra one inch thickness of mulch. Mulching in the spring time should be done after the soil warms. For tomato plants, use it after the tomatoes blossom.
- Prepare individual mulch according to the type of tree or plant.
- Check the thickness of the mulch regularly. If required, add more to meet the standard thickness.
- Sometimes, there will be lumps formed in the mulch. Use your hands to break these lumps.
- Do not pile up the mulch against the stem of the plant or tree trunk.
- If you are using organic mulching under trees, keep it well aerated and well drained.
- If you face drainage problems with the mulch, decrease an inch of the thickness.
- Avoid sour mulches, as they give out a pungent smell. These can prove harmful for young plants, as they might produce toxic elements over some time.
- Prevent excessive moisture in the mulch, as this might lead to rotting of the roots.
- Excessive mulching may lead to infestation by rodents and spread of certain diseases.