Applying mulch around a tree helps to protect the soil from drying out. However, if the mulch is covering the base of the tree, it could harbor disease and insects. So, it's best to pull the mulch away from the tree trunk.

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Mulch - Trees Need to Breathe

You’ll need to apply mulch on the soil to protect it and keep it from drying out and blowing away. It’s best to put a three-inch layer around the plant. Putting it against the plant will create an artificial environment which may favor insects and disease feeding on the plants.

So, make sure that you have a ring of space between the mulch and the plant such as a woody plant or tree. On perennials, you’ll need to also make sure that the mulch goes up to the base of the plant, but doesn’t cover the base.

When you’re putting mulch around a tree, pull the mulch back from the trunk so that you have an air space around the tree. Then, the bark will have a natural environment for it to grow in. It will keep it from being too wet which could encourage insects or disease issues.

This feature story prepared with Gregg Eyestone, Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Riley County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

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