Mulching is a spring ritual to ward off the onslaught of weeds and conserve water. Trust me. No one likes to weed. Plus, there is nothing like fresh mulch to make a garden and tree beds look beautiful. Could too much mulch be a bad thing?
Well, I pride myself on how well I tend to my yard. This year, I decided to hire Marc Zukovich, the gardening coach, to give me a second opinion. Guess what? I was smothering my beloved trees with mulch. Killing them softly, so to speak.
Yes, I am the tree terminator.
In my earnest desire to keep the weeds at bay I was creating volcano mounds of mulch. In the old days, I would be tied to a tree and whipped.
So Don’t Be a Mulch-erinator
Mark taught me the following:
- Only use 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch. He suggested hardwood mulch.
- If you can, make a mulch circle around the tree’s drip line. (What’s the drip line? If you drew a line from the end of the branches to the ground, this would be the drip line.) Mark said if you can’t make that large of a circle, a 2 to 3 foot circle is fine.
- Mulch should not be placed on top of the bark. You should be able to see the tree’s neck with a smattering of mulch near the bark. Think of the tree as a neck. An inch of mulch should be placed where the neck meets the shoulders. If you go in a forest, you don’t see mulch piled up on the bark of the tree.
- Each year, check to see if you need more mulch. Don’t just pile it on to make it look pretty. Mark further advised to turn it over instead. Of course, I worried about unearthing weed seed. He suggested using Preen or Corn Gluten for the weeds. (Note, both Preen and regular Corn Gluten contains genetically modified corn. If you care, please see here for a non-GMO source of corn gluten.)
Watch this video if you want a more visual lesson.
How Not to Be a Mulch Hoarder
When I whimpered about not having that nice dark colored mulch, Mark suggested using a store bought dye to spray the mulch. Mulch Magic is a colorant for faded mulch. However, it contains a petroleum based product (carbon black) and a solvent for the brown color. The Washington State Extension states as it pertains to Mulch Magic,
“Diethylene glycol monobutyl ether is a fairly common solvent for paints and inks with purportedly low environmental toxicity, but can irritate skin and eyes. Carbon black can be made from various sources but is basically a petroleum product, used in laser printer and photocopier toner as well as the manufacture of reinforced rubber (i.e. tires). Most concerns are related to worker inhalation at the point of manufacture. Iron oxide is, well, oxidized iron, and has been used as a pigment for quite a while (i.e. cave paintings at Lascaux, Bob Ross, etc.).”
Personally, I wouldn’t use it, but that’s me.
Next up. What kind of mulch should you buy that doesn’t make you want to throw up. No fooling.
Join the Conversation
- Are you like me, and keep piling on the mulch?
- Do you dye your older mulch?