By John Stonaker, Jul 12 2019 04:12PM
Many property owners don’t think much about the health of their trees. Shrubs and flowers seem to need more attention and they show damage quickly when they’re suffering. Damage done to trees often doesn’t show for several years – but by then it may be too late to save the tree.
Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to tree health. Avoid these mistakes when landscaping around your trees to prevent many problems that could stress and eventually kill your tree.
What not to do under your tree:
1. Don’t allow grass to grow around the base of your tree. Grass competes with the tree for moisture and nutrients, and since it needs to be kept short, lawn mowers and weed whackers can damage the trunk. Small cuts or bumps in the bark can lead to infection and rot. Herbicides sprayed to kill weeds can also damage the tree.
2. Don’t add a raised bed. A bed will compact roots and decrease airflow, and like grass, plants in the bed will compete for nutrients. Most trees will send out roots through mulch searching for air and food, growing up instead of down into the ground. These roots are the first to burn in the summer and freeze in the winter, and may eventually wrap around the trunk, choking it.
3. Don’t add mulch up to the trunk or around the root flare. These areas are susceptible to rot. If you mulch, organic mulch is preferable to rocks. Organic mulch provides nutrients and doesn’t compress the soil like heavy rocks can. Additionally, rocks can cause a change in the pH and nutrients in the soil as minerals in the rocks leach into the soil.
4. Don’t build structures within 10-15 feet of the trunk. Driveways, concrete pool decks, stone patios, and other features compact the soil, crush the roots, and detour needed rain and nutrients away from the tree’s root system.
5. Don’t plant the wrong plants under the tree. Some groundcovers grow well under trees without competing too much with them. Others require too much care, take too many nutrients from the soil, or die because they’re not suited to the environment under a tree.
Do this under your tree:
You may now be thinking, “Then what can I do?” You can mulch under your tree the right way.
Dig out the turf, down about 2-3 inches. Try to remove all visible roots from grass or weeds. By starting with fresh, root-free ground, your mulch barrier will be more effective and attractive. Add no more than 2 inches of organic mulch. Your tree service can recommend the best type for your tree and your climate.
Keep the mulch from covering the root flare or touching the trunk. You can also create a small wall or berm to keep the mulch in and create an aesthetic appearance, but don’t increase the depth of mulch. Replace the mulch as it decomposes in a year or two rather than piling more on top.
If you prefer plants under your tree, your tree service can recommend the best plants for your tree and your landscape. Make sure you get advice from a tree specialist, not a landscaper, unless the landscaper is also a specialist in the health and care of trees.
And of course, don’t forget regular pruning, which is crucial to tree health. Contact us at Stonaker to see how we can help you keep your trees healthy and beautiful for years to come.