Mulches should retain moisture, protect trees and plants from mowers and trimmers, and they keep weeds at bay. I used to work on the grounds crew for the college I attended. We had rings of mulch around all of the trees on campus.
We replenished the mulch in these beds whenever they needed help. We also had to maintain the edge of the ring and pull the few weeds that did sprout up so that they could not take over. Other than mowing, mulching was one of the most common jobs that we had to do.
When I say that mulching was one of the more common jobs that we had to do, it may sound like mulching requires a lot of work. The truth is that mulching is not really a time-consuming job. We only had to work on mulch a lot because we had a lot of tree rings to take care of.
To care for the number of trees in a typical yard, a homeowner should not have to worry too much about the amount of time it will take. Whatever time you do spend tending mulch beds can easily be made up by the amount of time you save by not having to weed around tress.
There are also the benefits of mulch to consider. I have often seen trees that have been repeatedly scarred up by mowers and trimmers. Mowing right against the trunk of a tree is not easy. Almost without fail, those who have to mow right up against a tree trunk end up scraping the tree.
Those who choose to use trimmers instead usually fare no better. For this reason, it is easier to keep the grass back away from the trunk of a tree. This is where mulch comes in. When you place mulch in a ring around the tree, you prevent yourself from having to cut right around the tree. What this means is that you protect your tree from damage. In the end, avoiding damage helps to keep the tree healthy.
Watering trees can be a full time job especially if you have to pull a hose from tree to tree. I have seen people who bring out a book or a crossword puzzle along with a lawn chair and station themselves next to each tree as they water tree by tree. In this way, the tree-hopper can burn three or four hours easily.
Organic mulch absorbs and hold moisture. What this means is that those who have mulch around their trees end up watering less frequently. I still think it is a good idea to use sprinklers or a drip hose, but at least you don’t have to worry about trees drying out too much between watering.
Mulch will not completely prevent weeds, but it will help. If you place a weed mat under a layer of organic mulch, you have a much better recipe for preventing weeds from taking over. Organic mulch straight over bare dirt will prevent some but not all weeds.
Obviously, laying down a layer of weed mat first is the preferred method. To be clear, the tree rings I cared for in college did not have a layer of weed mat under the mulch. This lack of weed mat also contributed to the need to maintain the tree rings.
If you do your mulching right, you can really save yourself a lot of work in the long run. For the health of your trees alone, a nice tree ring with mulch is a good idea.