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Posted on: May 7, 2022

Mulching 101

mulch wide not deep

Mulching is one of many beneficial practices a homeowner can do for the health of their tree.  Mulch can reduce water loss from the soil, minimize weed and turf grass competition for nutrients and water, and improve overall soil structure over time.  When properly applied, mulch can also give our landscape an attractive, well-groomed appearance. 

Follow these simple tips to mulch properly: 

Remove any mulch volcanos. Pull mulch away from the bases of tree and shrub trunks, creating a donut-hole. Do not pile it up against the trunk (“volcano mulching”). Excessive mulch on the trunk causes moisture to build up, creating ideal conditions for insect pests, diseases, and decay.

Extend the mulch to the drip line, if practical. Lay down a thin layer of mulch around the tree. The mulch should not touch the tree itself. Leave 1–2 inches of space between the base of the tree and the mulch.

If it is not practical to apply mulch to the dripline, apply as far out as you can. Generally, a 3 foot radius ring is the minimum for most trees.

Continue laying down mulch until it's 2–4 inches deep. Keep layering the mulch around the tree until it's the proper depth. The mulch shouldn't be piled up in a hill and should be spread level around the tree. For well-drained sites, apply a 2–4 inch layer of mulch. Fine mulches, such as composed materials, should be applied in a 2–3 inch layer and coarse mulches, such as arborist wood chips, should be applied in a 3–4 inch layer.

Pull weeds that grow out of the mulch. Mulch is meant to act as a barrier for weeds and grass. You should pull any weeds or grass that grow out of the mulch bed throughout the year to prevent future growth. 

Rake the mulch occasionally to prevent it from getting packed down. Compacted mulch prevents oxygen from passing through and can starve your tree's roots. If you notice that the mulch has been compacted down due to rainfall or people walking over it, make sure to occasionally loosen it up by raking it.

Check the mulch depth annually and replenish as needed. Make it a point to check the mulch depth around the tree once a year. Maintaining the proper mulch depth will prevent weeds, provide essential nutrients, and help with the tree's drainage.

The Department of Public Works will be surveying the town to correct improper mulching on parkway trees this spring.   We will drop a door hanger to provide additional information.  Mulch is free for any Riverside resident to use on their property within the Village!   The Department of Public Works welcomes you to pick up free mulch during business hours (Monday-Friday 7:30 AM to 4:00PM).  Please contact the Village Forester at (708) 442-3590 to discuss mulching do’s and don’ts.  

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