2. Layer on the Mulch
Mulching around a tree is a must. Mulch can mean more than just wood chips—shredded bark, pine straw, and even gravel also work well. Use the same type and color of mulch throughout your landscape to create a unified aesthetic. The repetition of mulch in flower beds and around trees gives the landscape a cohesive and clean look.
Other than giving everything a tidy appearance, why is mulch so important? First and foremost, it protects the tree trunk from damage from lawn equipment. The circle around the tree trunk reminds you how far to stay away from the trunk when mowing and trimming so you don’t accidentally hit the trunk.
Mulch also helps to insulate soil from temperature extremes. A 2- to 4-inch layer can help keep soil warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. It helps keep delicate roots from being stressed by heat, which is especially important with young trees. And it slows the evaporation of water in sunny spots so plants stay hydrated longer. Mulch can also help reduce soil erosion on slopes and naturally prevent weeds from sprouting.
When applying mulch around the base of a tree, do not pile it against the trunk like a volcano—this can encourage pests and diseases that harm trees. Instead, create a ring of mulch, so it looks more like a donut around the trunk. Make sure your mulch layer reaches at least to the drip line of the tree (the area outside the canopy). Landscape edging can be added around the border of the mulch for a more defined outline.
3. Use Garden Accents
In addition to mulch and shade-loving plants, try placing a few garden accents around the tree to fill empty spaces. Large, smooth rocks add a natural element to the space and will help to keep weeds from growing. You can also use landscape lights below trees for a dramatic nighttime accent that will create silhouettes and shadows. Place small container gardens in open spaces to add height and contrast. Under a tree is also a great location for a fairy garden or toad house.
Giving the space around tree trunks a little bit of attention goes a long way. These tips will quickly and easily turn the area around a tree into a visual focal point in the landscape. Not only does it accentuate the beauty of the tree, but it also helps keep the tree healthy so it will remain a part of your yard for decades to come.