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Properly sized mulch ring with tree well for watering around a newly transplanted tree

Providing a correctly constructed mulch ring around your trees is one of the most important things that should be done to protect trees.  Newly planted trees will grow and establish faster due to increased moisture availability and lessened turf and/or weed competion for water and nutrients.  The material used can be bark mulch, aged wood chips or other material that will serve to reduce water loss and lessen weed growth.

Moisture uptake by the tree can be inhibited if root ball soil of a newly planted tree is exposed to direct sunlight.  One way this can happen is if clay soil rootballs are allowed to dry out.  Once these rootballs harden up it is very difficult for moisture to penetrate any distance back through the root ball.  Trees will begin to exhibit moisture stress symptomology such as wilting or scorching/browning of leaves.  If root balls get to this stage, either before or after planting, the tops of the root balls need to be broken up after planting to allow water to begin to work down into the root ball.  Mulching material needs to be added and a slow, drip irrigation or watering needs to be applied. Proper watering and care prior to planting and the use of a mulching layer for a newly planted tree will help to avoid this problem. Another potential problem with unmulched root balls is root ball soil will dry out much faster without the protection of a mulch layer.  Moisture stress can occur more easily with unmulched trees because the transplanted tree has a small root system.

Inadequately sized mulch ring with lawn mower damage to tree bark

Mulch rings can also serve to physically protect a tree. An adequate size mulch ring can help avoid lawn mower and string trimmer injury by keeping this equipment away from tender bark.  Reducing weed growth around trees can help avoid potential herbicide injury and makes hand pulling of weeds much easier.

Rings should be constructed of a size proportional to the size of root ball and canopy of the tree.  If planted according to industry standards the planting hole of a newly planted tree will be of proper size to promote root growth and protect the tree.  Depth of the mulching material applied will depend on the type of product used. Applying too deep of a mulching material layer can be just as deliterious as not applying any. Too deep of a mulch layer can restrict water movement through this layer and into the root ball resulting in drought stress and potential tree decline as the heat of the summer arrives.  This tends to be more of a problem if watering is done by irrigation system or if relying on rainfall.  Avoid piling mulch too deeply directly around tree trunks.  In addition to restricting water movement any injuries present on lower tree bark can be aggrevated by this practice.  Having too deep a layer around the tree trunk can also encourage the development of girdling roots. As the tree grows the mulch ring will need to be expanded to continue to promote tree growth.  Newly planted trees with proper mulch rings will almost always outperform trees lacking protection.


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