Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

How do I mulch my trees and shrubs?

Mulch should be applied when you plant trees and shrubs and replenished as needed throughout the life of the plants. The mulch material can be organic, such as shredded bark, wood chips, compost, pine needles or, can be inorganic, like stone, or plastic or synthetic fabric mats which are often called weed-barrier mats.

Mulches, whether organic or inorganic, provide the following benefits:

1. They help conserve water by retarding soil moisture evaporation. This is critical during hot dry weather especially where frequent watering is not possible or practical.

2. Mulch helps moderate winter soil temperatures, especially when snow cover is lacking.

3. Mulch keeps the soil temperature from rising too high in the summer.

4. It helps keep lawn grass from competing with trees and shrubs for soil moisture and nutrients.

5. It can help prevent damage to plants from lawn mowers and weed whips, which can bang and scrape trunks and stems or debark and girdle thin-barked trees and shrubs.

6. Mulches also help reduce landscape maintenance by eliminating grass in awkward areas between plants and other landscape structures.

7. An attractive, well-maintained mulch gives a landscape a finished, professional look.

Applying mulch is easy. Mulch a four foot diameter circle around new trees and shrubs, and increase the circle as the plants grow. The root systems of plants extend beyond the branches of established trees and shrubs. The mulched area should be enlarged as the plant grows to provide the most benefit. Organic mulches should be applied 3-4 inches thick. Inorganic mulches such as plastic or synthetic fabrics should be covered with stones or other materials to prevent them from blowing. In both cases keep mulch a few inches away from the trunks of trees and shrubs. Mounding mulch around the trunks of trees and shrubs is not recommended and will result in insect, rodent and/or disease problems.