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This month’s Tree Tip was researched and written by Emil Peter, Director of Plant Health Care Services, ISA Certified Arborist #SO-6363A, and Forester for Woodland Tree Service. He may be contacted directly via email with any questions concerning this article or any other tree related issues.
Mulching and composting are two of the most beneficial and cost effective things a homeowner can do for the health of any tree. Mulches are materials placed on the soil surface to improve soil structure, oxygen levels, temperature, and moisture availability. Properly applied, mulch can give landscapes a handsome, well-groomed appearance in addition to slowly fertilizing and improving the soil structure around your tree.
In order to be as effective as possible, mulch must be applied properly. If the mulch and compost layers are too deep, or if the wrong material is used, it will cause harm to trees and other landscape plants. The combined compost and mulch should be about 2 inches deep and made of an organic material such as wood chippings or pine straw or even just leaves and sticks from the yard. You will want a material that will break down over time and return it’s nutrients to the soil around your tree.
As for how large an area around the tree to mulch, I recommend mulching as much of the root zone as possible. This will do a couple of things:
What to Look Out
for This Month:
Questions on How to Mulch? Here is How:
Still have some questions? Here are a few Do's and Don’ts:
1. Don't fall into the trap of the dreaded "mulch volcano," especially with young trees.
You've probably seen mulch volcanoes on people's lawns. Folks build circular raised beds around their trees, then fill the raised beds with wood-chip mulch. The mulch gets steeper and steeper the closer it gets to the tree, which shoots out of the hole at the end like a lava eruption! In a typical mulch volcano, the mulch may be 2" high at the perimeter and 6" high up close to the trunk.
There are several problems with mulch volcanoes:
2. Don't mound up dirt or mulch around the trunks of trees.
Piling up mulch against tree trunks can cause harm to your trees: it invites diseases and rodent pests. If you are mulching around a tree, start tapering the height of the mulch down when you get to within about 1' of the trunk, leaving the base of the tree free of mulch. It would even be better to have to weed this 1' than to risk damage to your tree, wouldn't it?
1. Do apply about two inches of mulch around trees, especially young trees.
Mulching trees keeps down weeds, thus eliminating competition for water. In addition, much water that otherwise would be evaporated by the sun can soak down through a 2" layer of mulch to the soil around tree roots. Mulching trees also helps keep their roots cooler in hot weather.
2. Do use shredded leaves when possible in mulching trees, especially young trees.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with using wood-chip mulches. However, a shredded-leaf mulch has some advantages. First of all, it is free. When you rake up your leaves, put them through a leaf shredder or leaf vacuum if you already own one; otherwise, shred the leaves by running the lawn mower over them. Secondly, leaves break down faster than wood chips, thereby releasing nutrients faster. Young trees, especially, will appreciate those nutrients. If you do not have one of these options or would rather have us take care of raking up your leaves and shredding them for compost, we would be happy to do that.
Our arborists want to keep your trees healthy for years of your enjoyment. If you have any questions or need any assistance with your trees, pests, or just questions, contact the experts at Woodland Tree Service. Email us or call (901) 309-6779.