Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Properly planting a tree involves knowing basic steps that end with putting down mulch. Mulch actually protects a tree from competition from turfgrass. Grass has a thick, shallow root system that can out compete the tree’s roots for nutrients and water. But that’s not the only harmful effect when grass grows over the tree’s root zone. Grass needs to be cut, and many trees are wounded when the lawnmower hits the trunk and skins off the bark. Those wounds are an entry port for diseases and insects. Weed eaters are equally damaging. The solution is to apply mulch under the tree instead. Don’t let mulch touch the trunk, start four inches away and extend beyond the root zone. During the hot, dry days of summer, mulch cools the soil surface and conserves moisture, acting like a sun hat for those tree roots.