Is Mulch Really Killing our Trees?

This post is courtesy of Steve Elwell, president of SumaGreen.  Visit his website at

Is mulch really killing our trees?

YES!!! Mulch can kill trees.

This is a subject of much interest because the trees are suffering. When the soil around a tree gets too high, problems develop. This can occur naturally but is more often caused by people. People who love their trees are hurting and even killing their trees for lack of knowledge. To much mulch around a tree could actually KILL your tree.

Soil is one thing, mulch is another. The difficulty is that both cause problems for trees when applied incorrectly and mulch, good organic mulch that is, becomes soil eventually. The deeper the mulch around the tree trunk the worse the situation for the tree.

Landscapers and builders/developers (sometimes the same but sometimes different companies or different people) cause damage to trees in the normal course of their respective business. Builders prepare the land for building structures and landscapers make the prepared land beautiful. After scraping the earth with heavy equipment the landscapers, and sometimes the builder/developer bring in soil to cover the land for various reasons. The soil level gets raised. Any pre-existing trees that were preserved have to cope with an unhealthy high soil level that actually comes as a mix of detriment and benefit. High soil levels hurt, but new rich soil helps (as long as it does not get to high on the existing tree trunk.

Sometimes homeowners feel it is a good idea to make rings around the trunks of trees by removing the grass and then covering the bare soil with mulch. Sometimes the soil around the trunk will be cultivated, augmented and raised. Then flowers will be planted there. This practice is not good for the trees.


Please remember too, when using mulch around plants in your garden, don’t put the mulch right up to the stalk/stem/base of the plants.  Leave at least a 1/2 inch space so the plants do not rot.


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