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The Best Practice to Maintain the Health of Your Urban Trees

Tree Mulching 101

Due to the cold wet spring here in the Black Hills, we have noticed an increase in in common pests and diseases that affect the urban forest. Properly applied mulch provides a lot of benefits to your trees and keeps them healthy and able to fight these problems. Mulch inhibits weed growth, helps to regulate temperature fluctuations in the soil, provides vital nutrients as the wood breaks down and most importantly it holds in soil moisture and prevents the soil from drying out too quickly. Proper mulching is essential for the health of your trees and applying it incorrectly can have a negative effect. Too much mulch piled at the base of the tree will cause moisture to build up around the root flare. Arborists refer to this improper technique as “volcano mulching.” Volcano mulching will quickly cause root decay, rodent issues and increase the risk of pest insects and diseases. Lastly, volcano mulching also causes what is known as girdling roots, which is a condition when smaller roots wrap around the dominant tree roots, choking it and not allowing it to absorb water and vital nutrients.

The proper way to mulch trees is by placing a level 2-3 inches of mulch around the tree but not allowing it to touch the trunk of the tree and most importantly, not allowing it to cover the root flare. Overtime, its important to rake away any mulch that has migrated close to the trunk of the tree and apply more as needed. Properly mulching your trees is one of the most beneficial practices that homeowners can use to ensure their trees stay healthy.

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