by Jennifer Poindexter
Have you ever heard the term, volcano mulching? If you haven’t, you’re in the right place. Volcano mulching occurs in gardens around the world. Once you know what it is, you’ll probably start seeing it everywhere!
Gardeners and landscapers think they’re helping their trees. Instead, they’re greatly harming them. I’m going to walk you through what volcano mulching is, why it’s harmful, and explain how to properly mulch your trees. If you’re interested in learning how to defeat this garden habit, keep reading. Here’s everything you should know about volcano mulching.
What Is Volcano Mulching?
Volcano mulching is exactly what it sounds like. This occurs when a gardener piles mulch around the base of a tree.
When you step back and look at it, the mulch resembles a volcano. Many gardeners mound the mulch, assuming it’s going to help retain adequate amounts of moisture.
They also assume, as the mulch breaks down, it will equate to more nutrients for their trees. Though the thought process is understandable, it’s flawed.
Volcano mulching must be avoided in your landscaping to protect your trees.
Why Is Volcano Mulching Harmful?
Volcano mulching is harmful to your trees because it locks moisture into all the wrong places. A tree is made of multiple parts.
We’re going to focus on a few of the important parts, you should consider, when mulching. The root system is beneath the soil, the bark is the protective barrier on the outside of the tree, and the root flare is where the tree emerges from the soil.
The root flare is the cut off point for mulch. When mulch is mounded on the bark of the tree, it locks moisture inside the bark.
This can lead to a multitude of issues including root rot, decay of the tree, inviting pests to the tree, and inviting disease to the tree.
Some of the biggest risks of volcano mulching include the death of the tree, the tree being weakened to the point of it falling unexpectedly, and encouraging faulty roots.
Instead of the roots sprawling, volcano mulching encourages the tree’s roots to grow in a circle around the trunk.
This leads to a weak root system and ultimately, a weak tree. These are a few of the reasons why volcano mulching is harmful and should be avoided.
How Did Volcano Mulching Happen?
You might wonder, if volcano mulching is such a negative thing, how did it ever become common practice amongst gardeners and landscapers?
In my opinion, it boils down to the human mind and our flawed reasoning skills. Most of us know that mulch is good for our plants.
Therefore, we would assume that more mulch equates to healthier plants. It should add more nutrients and retain moisture better.
However, we don’t stop to think that mulch is only good in moderation. If you mound too much mulch on a smaller plant, it could cause it to suffocate.
It also causes an imbalance in nutrients. Therefore, producing lush foliage and little to no fruit on smaller plants. This is due to applying too much nitrogen to the plant and not having enough phosphorus in the soil.
The same thing occurs when we add too much mulch around a tree. It can have negative effects. However, when you see all the amazing things mulch can do to a garden, you may not always stop to consider the negative side of things.
Therefore, volcano mulching has become common practice by many. It’s a bad habit which can easily be broken by gaining understanding and correcting how you mulch around your trees and smaller plants.
How to Properly Mulch Your Trees
After understanding what volcano mulching is and why you should avoid it, it’s time to discuss how you go about avoiding this method of mulching.
You can avoid volcano mulching by learning to mulch properly. Draw an imaginary circle around the base of the tree.
The edge of the circle should be approximately four inches from the root flare of the tree. This area will create a circular space between where the mulch begins and the tree’s root flare.
Starting four inches away from the root flare, begin applying mulch. You can fill in as much of the area surrounding the tree as you like.
However, you must be sure you don’t apply mulch within four inches of the root flare. This will ensure the bark can breathe properly. Maintain the empty circular space, surrounding four inches of the root flare, at all times.
You should only apply mulch, with a two-inch depth, at any time. By leaving the hole around the root flare, you ensure no mulch touches the bark of the tree.
This will allow moisture to be retained and nutrients to be applied to the soil without damaging the tree in the process.
Take this process to heart and begin mulching around your trees, using this method, to avoid volcano mulching going forward.
How to Add Nutrients to Your Soil When Mulching
Some think that mulch is a nutrient for your soil. As it breaks down, it does cause your soil to become richer.
However, it doesn’t hurt to apply fertilizer and compost to your soil each spring. This replaces any nutrients the tree might have used over the past year.
Yet, you must ensure you apply fertilizer and compost correctly when mulching. Compost has nutrients which are great for immediate use within your soil.
Therefore, you should mix the compost into the soil prior to adding more mulch. This will add nutrients and aerate the soil.
Once the compost has been added, you should draw the imaginary circle around the root flare of the tree again. Remember, it must extend four inches away from the root flare.
Four inches away from the tree is where you should begin applying mulch. The mulch should only be two inches deep. You can add granulated fertilizer to your mulch at this point.
When it rains, the fertilizer will make its way into the soil. There’s no need to premix fertilizer as you do compost. This is the process of refreshing the nutrients in your soil while mulching properly around your trees.
Which Type of Mulch Should I Use?
You might think all mulch is created equal. However, there are a few things you should look for when applying mulch to your landscape.
The most important aspects of mulch are whether it’s organic, is it aged, and how chunky the mulch is. To begin, you want organic mulch.
As it breaks down, it adds nutrients to your soil. When given the option, go with this type of mulch. You should also be concerned with the size of the mulch.
The chunkier mulch will last longer. It takes longer to break down and therefore, you might be able to apply mulch less frequently.
If you can only find finer organic mulch, it’s okay to use. Just realize, you will probably have to apply it more often than mulch with nuggets.
Finally, the age of the mulch will depend upon what you plan on doing with it. If you’re trying to discourage weeds, use fresh mulch.
However, if you’re trying to add nutrients to your plants, you should use a mulch that has aged and composted before application.
Take these tips into consideration when considering which mulch should be applied appropriately around your plants.
This concludes our discussion on volcano mulching and the appropriate techniques for applying mulch to your landscape.
By avoiding volcano mulching, applying mulch using the appropriate method, and using the best mulch for your gardening purposes, it’s our hope that your plants and landscape will thrive under your care.