How to Mulch Around a Live Oak Tree


Placing a covering of mulch around the base of a live oak (Quercus virginiana) serves both an aesthetic and plant-helping purpose. A layer of organic mulch about 3 inches deep around the tree will help retain moisture, keep the soil temperatures cooler in summer, dissuade weeds and prevent lawnmowers or trimming equipment from having to get too close to the trunk's bark.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Calculator
  • Shovel
  • Organic mulch (bagged or loose)
  • Fan-shaped leaf rake
  • Thick gloves

How Much Mulch?

Measure the length and width of the area around the base of the live oak that you wish to cover with mulch. Match the tree's drip line, which is the horizontal width of the tree's canopy. Do not worry that your length and width dimensions are for a square shape.

Multiply these two numbers to get the approximate area needed for coverage.The product is the square footage.

Multiply the square footage by .25 if you want a mulch layer 3 inches deep, or by .33 if you want the mulch to lay 4 inches deep. The product is the cubic feet of mulch required.

Write down the cubic feet required and take it with you to the landscape supply store to guide you to purchase the correct amount of mulch, in packaged bags or loose.

Buy an organic mulch, one that degrades to release nutrients into the soil and is environmentally harvested. Pine bark, pine straw, oakleaf mold and melaleuca chips are excellent examples.

Purchase a little more mulch than your calculations call for while at the store. It may save a return trip later and the extra mulch can easily be incorporated into your plan.

Preparing to Mulch the Tree

Remove any weeds or thick turfgrass from around the live oak tree's trunk so that the mulch lays atop bare soil. Avoid putting mulch on top of living plants as the plants will likely grow through the mulch regardless of how thickly it is layered. Use a shovel to chop off or dig up grass and weeds. Avoid digging aggressively with the shovel to prevent harming the live oak roots.

Extend the cleared area around the live oak ideally out to the drip line, where the tree's branches spread outward. This drip line is a good guide to the size and shape of the mulch layer you will spread.

Smooth out the area around the base of the live oak tree and discard or compost the removed grass or weeds.

Spreading the Mulch

Pile several shovel scoops of mulch in the cleared zone to cover around the tree.

Spread the mulch evenly with the shovel or rake to cover all areas in the zone.

Repeat Steps 1 and 2 until the mulch is at the desired depth.

Smooth out the mulch with the rake or your hands so it is even and attractive.

Pull away any mulch that is forced up against or laying upon the tree's trunk. A distance of about 3 inches from the tree trunk to the start of the mulch ring is ideal.

Tips & Warnings

  • Organic mulches slowly degrade, releasing nutrients and becoming rich humus that the live oak tree benefits from. Plan on replenishing mulch each year, as needed, keeping in mind the seasonal drop of old leaves from the oak tree itself helps to build the mulch layers on the ground.
  • To prevent fungal infestations or risks of rot, always keep mulch about 3 inches away from the stem or trunk of a live oak.

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