Proper Mulch Techniques

Mulching is a vital component of a healthy ecosystem for shrubs and trees. Mulching is one of the most beneficial things a home owner can do for the health of a tree or shrub. Mulch can reduce water loss from the soil, minimize weed competition, and improve soil structure. Properly applied, mulch can give landscapes a handsome, well-groomed appearance. Mulch must be applied properly; if it is too deep or if the wrong material is used, it can actually cause significant harm to trees and other landscape plants.


  • Helps control weeds: A 2 inch to 4 inch layer of mulch will reduce the germination and growth of weeds.
  • Helps maintain soil moisture: Evaporation is reduced, and the need for watering can be minimized.
  • Mulch serves as nature’s insulating blanket: Mulch keeps soils warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
  • Improve soils aeration, structure (aggregation of soil particles), and drainage over time.
  • Inhibits certain plant diseases
  • Mulching around trees helps facilitate maintenance and can reduce the likelihood of damage from “weed whackers” or the dreaded “lawn mower blight.”
  • Beautiful Aesthetics: Mulch can give planting beds a uniform, well-cared-for look.

Plant Healthcare (PLC)

Trees in a natural forest: They have their roots anchored in a rich, well-aerated soil full of essential nutrients. The soil is blanketed by leaves and organic materials that replenish nutrients and provide an optimal environment for root growth and mineral uptake.

Residential landscapes: These are typically a much harsher environment with poor soils, little organic matter, and large fluctuations in temperature and moisture. Applying a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch can mimic a more natural environment and improve

NOT TOO MUCH! As beneficial as mulch is, too much can be harmful. The generally recommended mulching depth is 2 to 4 inches. Unfortunately, Bucks County landscapes are falling victim to a plague of overmulching. A new term, “mulch volcanoes,” has emerged to describe mulch that has been piled up around the base of trees.



  • Too much mulch can lead to excess moisture in the root zone, which can stress the plant and cause root rot.
  • Plant Stress: Piling mulch against the trunk or stems of plants can stress stem tissues and may lead to insect and disease problems.
  • Poor Soil pH: Some mulches, especially those containing cut grass, can affect soil pH. Continued use of certain mulches over long periods can lead to micronutrient deficiencies or toxicities.
  • Pungent Odors: Anaerobic “sour” mulch may give off pungent odors, and the alcohols and organic acids that build up may be toxic to young plants.

Spring Clean and Mulching Service in Bucks County

PROPER MULCHING: It is clear that the choice of mulch and the method of application can be important to the health of landscape plants. The following are some guidelines to use when applying mulch.

  • Inspect plants and soil in the area to be mulched: Determine whether drainage is adequate. Determine whether there are plants that may be affected by the choice of mulch. Most commonly available mulches work well in most landscapes. Some plants may benefit from the use of a slightly acidifying mulch such as pine bark.
  • If mulch is already present, check the depth: Do not add mulch if there is a sufficient layer in place.
  • Organic mulches usually are preferred to inorganic materials due to their soil-enhancing properties. If organic mulch is used, it should be well aerated and, preferably, composted. Avoid sour-smelling mulch.

Let the NALP certified horticulturalist professionals at DKC help. Contact us today at 215-860-5066.

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