Root in Moisture

Root in Moisture

Planting trees is just half the battle.

The diseases, pests and power equipment that emerge outdoors in spring, accompanying frequent sunlight, longer days and warmer temperatures, can wreak havoc on your trees if you don't put forth the effort to protect them.

To keep your trees healthy throughout the growing season and beyond, you must practice routine maintenance and proper tree care. One way to help trees retain moisture, reduce weeds and keep power equipment at a safe distance is through mulch. In the coming weeks, you'll see piles of fresh mulch lined along neighborhood driveways. Soon, the coarse, fragrant matter will settle among flower and tree beds, enhancing the quality of landscapes' appearances.

There is much ado about mulch this season, but too much mulch can harm your trees and deteriorate their health. Not only is excessive mulch unsightly, but also it can reduce roots' oxygen intake and increase fungal growth and moisture.

On the other hand, a modest, even layer of mulch can enhance the soil biology beneath a tree and create a healthy environment where roots can thrive. Help your trees gain the most benefits from mulch by learning how to spread it right.

Our goal is to "mimic the wild," says Shawn Fitzgerald, a landscape horticulturist with The Davey Tree Expert Company. Mulch provides a natural setting for our trees, plus it suppresses weeds and helps soil retain moisture to keep thirsty roots hydrated.

mulching step-by-step
If an excessive amount of mulch covers the base of your tree, as pictured in panel No. 1, reduce it to an even, 2- to 3-inch layer (panel No. 2). Remember, tree roots need oxygen to breathe.

Ready to dig in? Consider these important mulching tips:

  • Use locally available organic mulches.
  • Disperse mulch evenly in a 2-inch to 3-inch layer. The goal is to help soil retain moisture and keep out pesky weeds that need sun­light to grow. But be careful not to pile mulch too thickly; roots need oxygen to breathe. Watch it done right in this video. 
    mulching trees
    Too much mulch piled close to the trunk can trap moisture and cause splits and cankers, which promotes disease.
  • Be sure to taper mulch, thinning out your application as you work toward the tree so the material does not touch the flare or trunk. When mulch is piled close to the trunk, it can trap moisture and cause splits and cankers. This can promote disease.
  • Make sure the mulch "skirt" around the tree fits the plant size. "If possible," Fitzgerald says, "we like to mulch out to the tree's drip line, which is where the tree roots are competing with turf for water and nutrients in the soil."
  • To re-mulch your landscape, only replace the mulch that has decayed. Mulch cultivation, or turning over existing mulch to create a fresh look, is also beneficial.
mulching flower beds

Mother Nature's natural reactions to varying mulch levels aren't the only plant health care concerns you can address with a proper mulch application. When backyard activity and landscape maintenance increase during warm spring and summer months, human harm is more likely to occur if mulch isn't present to protect your trees.

Because seasonal, routine maintenance, such as mowing and weed eating, can skin the bases of tree trunks, apply mulch to your landscape to protect trees from mowers and string trimmers. Mulch rings require less caution when maneuvering machinery near plant material, making maintenance easier and protecting plants from damage.

Despite the spring elements threatening your trees, your landscape doesn't have to be a battle zone this season. Prevent negative environmental interactions by arming your trees with mulch, a natural shield of protection. Although plant diseases are thriving, insect pests are surging and mower engines are revving, this time, your trees will be ready to face the season ahead.

  • The Tree Doctor July 5, 2016 >Hi Ashley! Thanks for reaching out to Davey for help on this! Our scientists at the Davey Institute warn that trying to stop fruit development is risky! Timing is critical, and results can be somewhat unreliable. There are a few different treatments that can be applied - likely next spring. You can talk to your local arborist more to see what they'd recommend (and when). You can give them a ring at 203.220.6975 or fill out this form here: Wishing you and your American Sweetgum all the best!
  • Ashley Ruotolo June 29, 2016 >Any thoughts about preventing an American Sweetgum tree from dropping its' spiky balls? They are a nuisance attaching to everything (my poor dog and my poor feet)! I researched online about these "injections" you can give the tree during early spring before it blooms and it prevents the blooms and therefore, stops the spiky balls. It is a beautiful tree and I would hate to get rid of it because of those pesky things! They are everywhere!!!!!!
  • The Tree Doctor April 28, 2016 >Hi Annie, Thanks so much for reaching out to Davey for help. We do indeed provide tree removal services. So sorry to hear you have a downed tree! We're here to help. Your next step? Reach out to your local Davey tree office. They'll discuss the details of removing - and provide a quote and time frame. You can contact them online at: Or, give them a call at 440-220-4180. Wishing you and your trees all the best, Annie!
  • Annie Williams April 28, 2016 >Do you have a service for removing a downed tree?
  • P.M.Rao April 29, 2013 >Very practical tips.Nicely done news letter.Thanks
  • kathy April 27, 2013 >hello! Yes, i love mulch. and I would really love it if you can dump some in my driveway. Do I just call you all and you can give me some mulch? Thanks so much.
  • noreen krispin April 25, 2013 >Thank you very much for the information on mulching around trees. It is so sad to see "mulch volcanoes" put down by a landscaping company! Hopefully those companies will read your advice!
  • Stephanie April 25, 2013 >Several pics on your mulch email show the mulch high around the tree & sloping down. Do you recommend that method or would you place it more flat? Where is organic mulch sold? Approx cost per yd? Thank you!
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