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Mulch around trees

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Tim Wilson, Nov 7, 2008.

  1. Tim Wilson

    Tim Wilson LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 795

    I'm in Ottawa Canada and noticed dozens of trees presumably maintained by the municipality with bark mulch heaped about 8 inches high, tight up against the tree trunk. I could not tell whether this was done earlier this season or last. From what I've read on this site and elsewhere these trees are doomed to die or suffer poor health.

    If this is the case, how long does it take for the trees to be negatively effected by this practice? I saw some others which had mulch similarly placed, surrounded by rubber/plastic border material.

    I'll see if I can borrow a camera to post some pics.
  2. muddstopper

    muddstopper LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,341

    Tim, I dont know just how long it takes for damage to happen, but I have seen the results of mulching in this manner many times. The trees usually start getting infested with bugs like ants and termites, the bark starts slipping off and then the trees rot around the base. I have seen this after only one year after mulching. Eventually the tree dies or breaks off at or near the ground level. I usually mulch around the base only getting close enought to the tree trunk to cover any exposed tree roots, I call this restoreing the forest floor. I never mulch upon the tree itself, altho the outer rim of the mulch layer might be several inches high. This is due to the riseing of the soil surface next to the base of the tree due to the growth of the tree roots and trunk. Planted trees often are planted in holes to deep and is probably one of the reasons people think they have to pile up mulch around the base of the tree, its the only way they can get a mound.
  3. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,911

    10 x ditto...........
  4. Yeah, this is happening everywhere [groan]. I have been seeing it for years in our area.

    The roots cannot get enough oxygen, anerobic conditions develop, root rot begins and the trees suffer. Secondary roots can develop within the root crown which can cause girdling of the base of the tree.

    The primary problem is a lack of understanding of how plants grow. Show me how this occurs in nature.....

    Of course, the secondary problem is that mulch is sold by the yard. Unfortunately some people in the trade take advantage of this. :hammerhead:
  5. MJS

    MJS LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,316

    You know, it's funny, but I see this done waaay more often on nice commercial and higher-end residential - I've had to convince people that the piled mulch look is notgoing to do their trees any favors in the long run. Go figure. . .
  6. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    The tree sends out roots into the mulch and they wrap around themselves and eventually choke themselves, we have that throughout our neighborhood, I'll snap a shot and post

    I too see it most often in commercial work and nice neighborhoods it is very unfortunate that the folks on the ground doing the work do not understand. We are beginning an effort to reach out to the hispanic community and begin training next year. Our new sales guy has his roots in Puerto Rico and also New York, fluent in spanish. we want to begin webinars on best practices in landscaping and lawn care, english and spanish
  7. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    crown & collar rot = tree mortality (Phytophthora species)
  8. growingdeeprootsorganicly

    growingdeeprootsorganicly LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 766

    mulch volcano's......as people have said there are many reasons for this phenomenon.

    planting to deep..excess dirt piled up.....planted too sallow..root ball expossed to high

    i say too that for as many immigrant worker that don't know or care how to plant and mulch properly that there are the same amount of owners that don't know or care as well

    yes mulch is sold by the yard but i see the problem get worst as yeas go on by the simple fact that the mulch gets piled and piled up year after year with out removing the old mulch. lack of proper supervision and shear laziness is the problem

    tim question about decline.... i think that all depends on the species of tree, the amount of moisture the area receives yearly, thickness or height of mulch above root ball,type of mulch,insect presents, how healthy the tree/soil is......the list goes on

    if the conditions exists i feel it's up to the owner or supervisor of the landscape company to address and fix these problems, if the mulch is too high up the trunk of tree SOMEONE needs to pull it a few inches away from trunk and as deep down as possible if the mound look is wanted. all of the yards i pick up like this i do just that.
    the pic i posted on the topdressing thread there's a red maple with a mulch volcano.. if you look you can see the mulched pulled back from the trunk about 8" down and about 3-5" wide from the trunk.

    i want to say again it's not the Mexicans fault for this...all responsibility falls on supervisors and owners of company's

    mulch that builds up over time needs to be REMOVED! that simple
  9. Prolawnservice

    Prolawnservice LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 612

    There two sides to every coin, you can tell people till your blue in the face that it's wrong. They see their neighbors trees with mulch volcanos and they think it looks nice:confused: so they need it too:hammerhead:. I look at it like job security, its basically engineered obsolence, as far as that tree is concerned. From my experience, I would say on average the tree that is mulched like this lasts about 5 to 10 years. Then I tell the customer "see, too much mulch" cut it up to use for firewood, and plant a new tree the correct way.
  10. MJS

    MJS LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,316

    Very very true. . . Unfortunately - that's exactly the case 99% of the time.
    If their neighbors have something done, and it seems ok, then they have to have it too. . . regardless of the consequences. The usage of rubber mulch seems to spread like that, too.

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