How Much Mulch is Too Much?

How much Mulch is too much? Try saying that 5 times fast, we promise it won’t disappoint.  In the rest of this blog, we’ll try to tackle the importance of proper mulch installation and all about the dreaded *gasp* mulch volcanoes.

Mulch can be your plants’ best friend or its’ worst enemy. There is a fine line between the protective barrier that a well installed mulch bed can provide your plants and the damage that can be done when too much or too little is installed. When installed properly, mulch is not only a functional barrier but also a beautiful addition to your landscape. The curb appeal from mulched landscape beds is the perfect addition to any home as it adds texture between plants and gives your beds a clean and uniform appearance. We’ve compiled some of our professional tips to make sure that your mulch is installed (either by yourself or a professional) properly in your Illinois or Missouri landscape!

Introduction to Mulch

When you install mulch, it will hold moisture in your soil and suppress weed growth but too much or too little can often have negative effects. The same moisture that is held in with the proper amount of mulch grows exponentially when too much mulch is installed. This will make the soil waterlogged and encourage harmful diseases in plants. Those weeds that are suppressed? If there’s not enough mulch installed then those weeds will just sneak right on through.

As with most things, all mulch is not created equal. There are several different kinds such as natural brown mulch and dyed mulch (with many more but these are the kinds we see most often used in our area). For that clean look, we recommend the dyed brown mulch (there is also black and red) as we have found that the natural brown fades really quickly and doesn’t give you that manicured look that you’ll typically mulch when installing. Do your research when picking your mulch (or utilize a professional) to figure out what would be best for your landscape beds.

Proper Installation

Like any other project, make sure that you do the proper installation process from beginning to end. There is bed preparation that has to happen before you can even think about installing mulch. First of all, you’ll want to make sure you get rid of any weeds currently in the bed by spraying, cutting them closely, or pulling them. Next you’ll want to lay down a weed barrier, most often this will be a fabric barrier but some people prefer a biodegradable weed blocker such as newspaper (you will need to use several layers of this).

From here, you can start installing your mulch. The mulch should be approximately 3 inches deep and should go up levelly to the plant. This will allow for the proper protection of your plants while not choking them out. Make sure and avoid the dreaded mulch volcano when installing mulch around trees (more information in next paragraph). Be aware that mulch will sometimes settle so you may have to smooth it out if that bothers you. You will also have to refresh the mulch by adding more as it gets thinned out because mulch will decompose, settle into the soil, and some may even blow away.

Mulch Volcanoes

Since trees take a while to grow and to become the magnificent things that they can be, it’s best to take care of them. In doing so, we beg that you stop the dreaded mulch volcanoes when installing mulch. This is one of the things that we see improperly done very often. What is a mulch volcano, you ask? You’ve definitely seen them before, they are when the mulch is piled sometimes up to 12 inches around a tree trunk (see picture below).

Tree bark exists to protect the trunk and, in doing so, it needs air and light. Just like mentioned above, mulch retains moisture so when this much of the trunk is covered in it, it starts to rot away. Rotted bark can’t protect the tree from insects and diseases which seem to thrive in dark and moist environments. The proper way to mulch around a tree is more like a donut, it should be 2 to 4 inches maximum and it should be pulled away  from the tree trunk by a few inches. Make sure that you can see the tree trunk and the flare of the tree. Again, mulch does tend to thin out as time wears on but make sure that you aren’t just piling mulch on top of other mulch as this could end up in the same issues as a mulch volcano. Like with all other mulch installations, make sure that you are only adding what is missing to the depth of the mulch.

To Wrap it Up

Are you exhausted just from reading about mulch installation? We’ve got you covered! Make your honey-do list your honey-done list with our team’s help. We can help you with all of your mulching needs (both original installations and mulch refresh) and most other lawn needs such a mowing, clean-ups, fertilization, and more! Our experts will help you figure out what is best for your lawn and landscaping and will even do the math to figure out how much mulch you need. You’ll come home one day and it’ll just be done. How easy is that!? Give our lawn professionals at Envisioning Green a call at 618-307-6677  to start planning this and other aspects of your year-round lawn and landscape maintenance. Don’t have time to call? Use our handy chat button below to chat with one of our team now!


As usual, mulch installation and types used will vary by location and by installation. There is no guarantee that this installation will be perfect for your property so we suggest that, when in doubt, call in a pro!


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