Trees are wonderful, awe-inspiring living organisms that provide shelter, food, clothing, even medicine to humanity. It is only fitting that they should be cared for and nurtured not only for the benefits with which they endow mankind, but also for the beauty with which they enrich the soul.
Building a Strong Foundation
One of the easiest and most cost-efficient ways to take care of trees and keep them healthy is through mulching. Most gardeners use organic matter for their mulch, including leaves, twigs, grass clippings, vegetable waste, and peat. These decompose over time, returning nutrients to the soil and making the ground more fertile and healthy. In turn, the plants (trees included) soak up these nutrients along with the water through their roots.
In a forest, this cycle occurs naturally. Trees shed their leaves and branches as they grow, which fall to the ground around them and in time become part of the soil that nourishes the tree. In your garden, you help this process along by proper mulching.
Preventing Water Loss
Mulching also helps the ground retain moisture from the rain (or your garden hose). Keeping moisture close to the tree roots makes it easier and faster for the roots to absorb the water. This may not be so crucial when the days are cool and the nights are long. But the amount of water a tree can soak up and the ease with which it can retain water on a hot summer day can sometimes make a big difference.
Whenever possible, lay out mulch as far out to the natural dripline of the tree as possible. This helps optimize the area from which the roots of the tree can absorb water, as well as prevents water from pooling around the tree trunk. This can sometimes lead to tree rot, weed growth and insect infestation.
Remember that as the tree grows, its need for moisture changes. A tree’s water needs also fluctuate in different seasons of the year. Adequate mulching helps retains moisture in the ground, which means you do not have to water as often, nor use as much water when you do.
It is said that a person has at least the beginning of wisdom when he plants a tree, knowing he will never sit under its shade. Taking proper care of the trees that someone else had the foresight to plant, allowing you to sit under their shade now, is just plain gratitude.