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Spring clean-up and tree ring mulching

Spring is just around the corner here in Essex Vermont and many will begin thinking about a spring clean-up for their landscape.  We love our bark mulch here and a fresh layer of bark mulch around trees and plants can be just the shot in the arm that wakes us up from the winter blues.  I know for me just the smell of the fresh mulch really tells me that the winter has passed and we are on to new and fresher things.

One of the most important areas to mulch during the spring clean-up in your landscaping is around trees.  Trees benefit hugely from mulch rings for the following reasons:

-lessened compaction of the root zone

-no competition from turf

-reduced soil erosion

-water preservation

-protection from string trimmers and lawn equipment

If you have trees in the landscape that stand alone in lawn areas or in green belts mulch rings are a great plan.  Incorrect mulch ring installation can result in long term damage and even death of the tree.  Below are some pictures of trees that are improperly mulched.  Note how the mulch ring is small and the mulch covers the trunk of the tree–particularly the root flare.

Mulch covering root flair, no edging, mulch ring too small

Mulch ring too small, no root flair, mulch too deep

elm tree, bad mulch ring

Elm tree with mulch ring too small, no visible root flair

Mulch rings should be a minimum of 6′ in diameter and should be spade edged to prevent grass from creeping into the mulch.  Mulch should be a shredded bark product ~3″ in total depth, and should not cover the root flair of the tree or any portion of the trunk.

Freshly excavated root flair–this should be visible post mulching

Here is a schematic showing an appropriate mulching arrangement.

Mulching trees is imperative to good tree health, but there is too much of a good thing.  Please don’t just dump and run mulch up on the trunk of the tree and covering the root flair.  This is the #1 cause of stem girdling roots which if left unchecked are fatal to the tree.  The best suggestion is leave the spring clean-up and landscape maintenance to the pros to insure the long term health of the trees in your landscape.


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