As we begin to prepare our yards for autumn, it is important to establish good garden practices. Caring for your plants in the fall can lead to explosive spring growth! One of these crucial components of fall tree care is mulch. Fall is a great time to mulch due to optimal soil moisture levels. When it comes to mulching, there is certainly a right way and a wrong way to do it. While you can leave it up to your plant health care team at RTEC, there are also ways you can pitch in to help your trees out!
Why Does Mulch Matter?
When applied correctly, mulch can enhance the life, health, and quality of your plants. Whether you are getting vertical mulching done by professionals, or trying your hand at ring mulching, the benefits are spectacular. To get the most out of your mulch, find one with a good mix of natural ingredients with minimal dyes or chemicals.
Benefits of Mulch:
- Slowly releases nutrients into the soil as it breaks down.
- Reduces the amount of water evaporating from the soil.
- Helps regulate soil temperatures.
- Suppresses weeds from growing.
- Prevents soil erosion normally caused by rain and wind.
What Type of Mulch is Right for Your Garden?
Mulch can be separated into two main categories: organic or inorganic. Of course, we always recommend using organic mulch! It has far more benefits than using a synthetic alternative and is safer than inorganic mulch. Keep in mind, just because it is called organic mulch does not mean it is free of dyes or chemicals. Make sure you choose one with no harsh additives!
- Formerly living materials (leaves, bark, wood chips)
- Provides nutrients as it breaks down naturally
- Needs to be reapplied once depleted
- Made from synthetic materials (plastic, rubber, geotextiles)
- Does not break down naturally
- Does not provide additional nutrition to soil
Vertical Mulching vs Ring Mulching
When most people think of mulching, only one type comes to mind. For most people, its the image of brightly colored wood chips piled up in a circle around the base of a tree. While this type of mulching, known as ring mulching, is a good option for trees, RTEC offers a special form of mulching known as vertical mulching. We recommend both types depending on what kind of trees you have on your property. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two to see which one will work best for your trees!
|Vertical Mulching||Ring Mulching|
|Applied directly into the soil||Applied on top of the soil|
|Great for mature trees||Great for young trees|
|Minimal appearance||Adds color to landscape|
|Improves soil quality||Improves soil quality|
Vertical mulching is a unique form of mulching that mimics creating a rich forest floor environment within a suburban area. This kind of mulching is most beneficial to mature trees, especially those in a turf setting. Unlike in a forest, where plant material is left to decompose, our yards are often stripped of natural nutrition. When fall comes we rake up leaves to prevent overwintering pests, and in summer our grass crisps from the heat. It’s not exactly the ideal setting for a big oak tree! That’s why it’s important to make sure we are supplementing the soil with all the essentials a tree needs!
During the vertical mulching process, our technicians use a special tool to create holes or pockets within the critical root zone of a tree. This process helps decompact tight soil in high traffic areas. The holes are strategically made in a grid pattern for optimal efficiency. We then backfill the holes with nutrient-dense organic material, which slowly seeps into the surrounding roots! This process extents a tree’s longevity and improves the quality of soil so much that the process only needs to be done once! Once the soil is enhanced, all you will need are regular bio-stimulant applications to maintain the tree’s health!
Most people are familiar with ring mulching and when it is done correctly it is a great way to improve your tree’s health! We recommend ring mulching for new plantings and younger plants. Unfortunately, we tend to get overzealous when applying mulch – spreading it out too far or layering it on too thick – which can cause more harm than good. Luckily, there are only a few simple rules to follow in order to become a ring mulch master.
One of the best ways to create the perfect mulch ring is by envisioning a donut or bagel. What’s in the middle of a bagel? A hole! Or in this case, a hole with a tree in the middle. That’s exactly how your mulch ring should be. Mulch should not be applied directly against the bark, this can cause problems with rotting. Instead, allow the root flare to breathe by starting your ring a few inches from the base of the tree.
Additionally, you want to avoid a mulch volcano at all costs! A mulch volcano occurs when a large pile of mulch is domed around and against the tree. This can lead to rot, poor aeration, and will make the tree more susceptible to pests and diseases. Mulch only needs to be applied between 3-6 feet outwards from the tree, and no more than 2-3 inches high. Before you get started on your fall tree care, make sure to check out our article on common mulch mistakes to avoid in your home garden!
Time to Mulch!
Mulching is a great technique for giving your trees some extra love and care in the fall months. Mulch can help regulate temperature and moisture, releases nutrients into the soil, and can increase the longevity of your tree’s life! Call RTEC today to give your trees the boost they need to flourish in the spring!