On April 30, 2019, we published a blog article on mulching. This was detailed document regarding how to mulch and types of mulch. It briefly described tree rings, so this piece will go into more detail on tree roots and the trunk flare (base of tree) maintenance.
Trees are the anchor of landscapes. Trees are beautiful. They can define the landscape and become a focal point in your yard. They also mark the seasons, giving us gorgeous flowers in the spring and brilliant foliage in the fall. Trees can enhance any landscape. A shade tree (Maple, Oak, etc.) can live 50 to 200 years in the landscape, where an ornamental tree (Cherry, Crabapple, etc.) is much less between 20-60 years. Shrubbery is in the 5-30-year range and perennials in the 1-10-year range.
As you can see, a tree well maintained tree can outlast the homeowner and even sometimes the home. Unfortunately, though, humans can be the enemy of trees as well. Mechanical injury, herbicide damage, over watering, and poor environmental conditions (aka smog, etc.). Most trees are tough and will not die overnight from poor conditions, but a slow death. Usually by the time a homeowner sees the tree in decline, it is to late to save it. A trained arborist can see and correct problems in a timelier fashion. That is why we suggest…especially if you have irreplaceable, mature trees on your property…to have an arborist visit and inspect your trees multiple times in a season.
The biggest problem we see day in and day out is crown damage to trees. This is caused by two main reasons:
- Over mulching – mulch volcano
2. Mechanical injury – string trimmer and lawn mower damage
So, the debate on to install a tree ring or not starts. We highly suggest that you do especially on younger plants and/or weaker bark trees (aka Linden). BUT they MUST be installed properly and maintained properly! A mulch ring keeps the string trimmers, lawn mowers and turf herbicides away from the trunk of the trees as well as maintains moisture for new plantings. If too much mulch is originally installed and especially if it is added to following years you get what the industry has termed “mulch volcano”.
Drive down nearly any suburban street, and we’ll see mulch mayhem. That is to say, mulch 8-12 inches deep in some areas, and piled in a volcano-like fashion against the base of trees. This is a terrible practice that can result in so many tree and shrub issues. Take a moment to Google, “Mulch volcano,” and you will find a prolific amount of information on the topic, even entire non-profit organizations dedicated to stopping the madness.
Mulch should NOT be above the root flare of the tree! If you want fresh mulch around a tree and there is to much of old mulch…REMOVE! Many arborists suggest even keeping mulch away 6-12” from the base of the tree all together. Mulch above the flare will eventually put the plant into decline or even rot away the base of tree.
Really though, how much damage can a string trimmer do to a tree? Its like somebody picking at their skin. Do it once, no worries. Constantly do it and do it and you destroy your protection from the outside world. I was at this client’s home last week and their tree fell over. Why? Because they didn’t do a mulch ring. The string trimmer after years and years and ripping the bark and cambium away left the tree no strength during a storm.
Just like great architecture and artifacts, trees are for the next generation. Let’s do our part in maintaining them properly.