• Tony Renta

What's the deal with mulch?


Shredded pine bark perennial planting bed with pathway.

To mulch or not to mulch? This question comes up a lot during the installation phase of a landscape plan. Mulching plants and planting beds is both functional and aesthetic. Mulching around new plantings and also established plantings (trees, beds, etc.) is definitely a step you want to plan and budget for in the development of your master landscape plan.


Here are some reasons to mulch:

  • Conserves moisture in the root ball of the new plant until the plants roots have time to grown into the surrounding soil.

  • Growth rate of your new plantings will increase when the new plant doesn’t have to compete for water and nutrients from weeds – mulch can help prevent weeds

  • Mulched soils are warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer than bare soils. Plant roots are protected from temperature extremes.

  • Mulch improves the soil’s physical structure and fertility as it breaks down.

When should you mulch?

  • New plantings should be mulched right after you plant them

  • Established plants should be mulched in early spring – right before plants start to grow and before weed seeds begin to germinate

How much mulch should I use?

  • Depth of mulch depends on the texture and the density of the mulch material. Finer mulches should not exceed 3” deep, while coarse-textured mulches can go to 4” deep.

  • Newly planted trees – 3’ to 4’ in diameter. Don’t pile much against the trunk of the tree.

  • Established trees – Create a circle of mulch 2’ in diameter for each inch of the tree trunk diameter. Continue to increase the mulched area as the tree grows. Try to apply mulch at least 6” to 12” beyond the drip-line of the tree.

Types of mulch:

  • Organic – hardwood bark (pine bark, shredded bark, wood chips), pine needles, grass clippings, pecan shells

  • Inorganic – gravel, pebbles, crushed stone


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