Mulch Volcanoes Hurt Trees

Mulch Volcanoes Hurt Trees

Mulching the ground beneath your trees and shrubs is one of the best practices for keeping trees healthy. However, you need to mulch properly for it to truly be beneficial. Never pile mulch against the tree or cover the tree’s root flare, where the trunk flares outward into the ground. Even though a mulch volcano, a large pile of mulch under a tree, is a commonly seen practice, it is not a good one. Mulch volcanoes harm trees!

Mulch should be spread in a thin layer beneath the entire canopy.

How to Add Mulch Correctly

mulch volcano
INCORRECT MULCHING! A mulch volcano, where mulch is piled against the tree trunk, traps in moisture and damages the tree.

Whenever possible, you should apply mulch beneath the entire canopy. Mulch beds do not have to be round or symmetrical. The more area beds can cover under the canopy, the better! Mulch should not be deeper than four inches. Two inches will work for shallow rooted shrubs and perennials. As mulch decomposes, add more to maintain the appropriate depth.

One of the best materials to use as mulch is fresh wood chips. Wood chips contain bark, leaves and wood. This mixture is the most nutrient-rich option for the tree. It’s also okay to plant shrubs and perennials under the tree in the mulched area. When planting under trees, avoid solid masses of ground covers that hide buttress roots. Plant ground cover at least twelve inches away from tree trunks.

Mounded mulch and excessive ground cover can trap moisture against the tree’s bark. Stem tissues are not intended to remain moist. Excess moisture promotes the growth of fungal pathogens and disease. Too much mulch or ground cover can also conceal signs of an issue like the fruiting structures associated with root decay fungi.

How Mulch Helps

As you can see, proper mulching is relatively simple. It’s also effective in creating a healthy growing environment for trees. It eliminates competition between tree roots and turf as well as conserving soil moisture and moderating soil temperature. As mulch decomposes into the soil, it helps improve soil structure and reduce compaction.

Mulch beds mean there is less area of your lawn to mow. They also create a visible and physical barrier that can help prevent damage from mowers and trimmers to the tree trunk.

Even though the practice of piling mulch against the tree like a mountain or volcano has become so common that some professionals think it is acceptable or desirable, it is not. Just remember, mulch is one of the best things you can do for your trees, but only if you do it right!

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Monitor Trees for Signs of Insects & Disease

Monitor Trees for Signs of Insects & Disease

The telltale signs of various tree diseases and insect infestations are often most evident in summer. Populations of many types of scales, mites, and aphids are particularly noticeable at this time. Some problems can be spotted and treated immediately. However, when certain insect pests are present and visible, it may already be too late to treat. Even in these cases, learning now that these insects are present is important. You can get a jumpstart on planning for treatments for next year and implement cultural practices, like proper mulching and irrigation, that will keep trees healthier and more resistant to infestation. By regularly looking at your trees you may notice some of the common signs associated with tree pests or disease.

Signs of a Tree Issue

leaf galls
Strange bumps, or galls, on leaves can indicate insect feeding and egg-laying activity.

Discoloration, spots, or bumps on leavesBranch dieback, wilting, or stunted foliageMushrooms or fungal growth near a tree’s trunkDark areas or oozing liquid on the trunk or rootsPresence of defoliating insects, nests or caterpillarsSmall exit holes in the trunk or branchesSap-sucking insects secreting honeydew that leads to sooty mold growthSawdust-like debris caused by wood-boring insectsPremature autumn color and leaf drop

magnolia scale
Scale insects can be difficult for property owners to spot because of their unusual appearance.

Correct Diagnosis is Key

Some symptoms may indicate problems that cause negligible damage and require little to no intervention. Conversely, others may reveal that a serious problem exists or could develop if the symptoms are ignored. Therefore, correctly diagnosing the cause of symptoms is critically important in caring for trees and shrubs.

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The May Tree: Hawthorn Shines in Spring

The May Tree: Hawthorn Shines in Spring

During the month of May it seems fitting to mention a lovely species often called the May Tree. Aptly named for the month in which it blooms, the May Tree, or hawthorn, is a small, showy tree. It displays clusters of beauitful, white or pink blooms in spring.

Hawthorn is native through much of Europe and in Eastern North America. The tree has long, sharp thorns along its horizontal branches. With its thorny branches, hawthorn is an excellent hedge boundary and privacy screen. Berry-like fruit attracts many birds that take shelter in the tree’s dense, thorny foliage. Early settlers to North America ate the fruit during harsh winters. During medieval times, Europeans made jams and jellies with it.

hawthorn fruit
The hawthorn fruit is called haws and is an important winter food for many birds.

Cultural and Historic Significance

The hawthorn tree holds traditional significance in numerous cultures. According to myth, the tree was seeded from lightning and offers protection against storms and fire. Ancient Greeks saw it as a symbol of springtime and fertility and used it as garland and decoration during wedding festivities. Celtic and Gaelic lore often associates the tree with faeries. In fact, the story of Thomas the Rhymer, references a hawthorn as the meeting place of the Scottish poet and the Faery Queen.

Hawthorn Care Recommendations

With its unique history and distinctive physical attributes, hawthorn is a great ornamental tree. It should be planted in a sunny spot. Tolerant of a range of soil pH, textures, and moisture levels, it is also moderately drought tolerant. The white flowers last about one to two weeks and are an excellent food source for pollinators.

A number of insect pests, such as aphids, mites and scale, favor hawthorn. It is susceptible to several diseases including fire blight, leaf spots and rusts. These issues can escalate quickly. As such, hawthorn should be routinely checked for any signs of pests and disease.

The post The May Tree: Hawthorn Shines in Spring first appeared on Tree Topics.

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Caring for Trees: From Autumn into Winter

Caring for Trees: From Autumn into Winter

As autumn settles in and winter approaches, it’s a good time consider the care your trees need now and throughout the coming season. Keep these things in mind and you’ll have happier trees this spring!

Cultural Practices to Keep Trees Healthy

Pruning: Before winter arrives, prune out dead or broken branches. They may be at risk of falling with the added weight of snow or ice. In fact, pruning in general is a good thing to take care of in the winter. Most plants go dormant and fungi are less of a concern.Mulching and Irrigation: It’s important to pay attention to mulching and irrigation year-round – not just during the growing season but also during winter. Even though plants may be dormant, many still require a minimum amount of water to meet their needs. Mulching helps to maintain soil moisture. Additionally, it provides a buffer against stress to the root zone.Deicing Salt: Remember that while salt might be good for driveways, it can be terrible for trees. Increasing salt levels in the soil can damage and kill fine roots. This prevents healthy levels of nutrient uptake by the root system.

Managing Pests & Disease

Improve Airflow: Pruning trees and shrubs to increase airflow and sun penetration can be a great way to help reduce the likelihood of future fungal infection. If the foliage stays mostly dry then the plant is less likely to become infected.Raking: If any fungal pathogens were found on the foliage throughout the growing season, you should rake up the fallen leaves. Raking and removing this material will help reduce the levels of infectious fungal inoculum that may be waiting over the winter to re-infect foliage the following spring.Controlling Scale Insects: A new scale control technique we’ve found effective is to physically remove these tiny pests with a scrub brush! Now is a good time to take care of accessible scale populations that may be entering their overwintering period. Scraping away the protective covers and physically removing the insects can greatly reduce populations. Smaller populations are generally easier to control.Deterring Wildlife: Wildlife can be a huge nuisance for landscape plantings. Deer and small mammals may munch on any available landscape plants. Products are available to help deter wildlife feeding. Protecting feature plants in the winter is especially important as fewer wild plants may be available for wildlife to feed on.

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