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In the Garden: Keeping your trees healthy

by Tina Sottolano-Cain

Trees are the foundation for any good landscape design. They are the anchor that holds down the foundation and structure of the property around your home and garden. It is important to keep that anchor in the best possible condition along with the area that surrounds it.

The care and maintenance of trees is as important as the lawn and gardens are that surround them. Habits like proper mulching, pruning, which we have discussed on earlier segments of β€œIn The Garden,” as well as keeping a vigilant eye out for pests and diseases, are key.

This brings me to an important topic and one of my biggest pet peeves in gardening, improper mulching or what I like to call the β€œillegal usage of mulch.”

Perhaps you have seen this, driving around your local neighborhood, trees that have mulch piled up around the base of the trunk like Mount Vesuvius. Properties with their own mini volcanoes, trees shooting out of them. As an official referee in the sport of gardening I have to blow the whistle on this one. Adding mulch to the garden and around the base of trees, especially newly planted trees is a beneficial practice. It helps to keep weeds down and aids in keeping roots cool and moist. Having mulch around the base also provides a buffer between the lawn mower and line trimmer to minimize any damage the blades can have on the exposed roots and trunk.

You may be asking yourself, if mulching has so many beneficial properties than isn’t it better to use more? Less is best when it comes the layering of mulch. You never want to add more that three inches right on top of the trunk of the tree. By doing this you are suffocating the tree and constricting air flow. Instead you want to mulch at least six inches away from the trunk of the tree and layer two to three inches thick. This will keep the flare of the trunk and the base of the tree exposed. The type of mulch you use can be organic or inorganic and is usually a shredded pine bark.

Now that you have mulched properly you want to take a look at the overall health of the tree. Late spring is an ideal time to fertilize. Depending on whether your trees are deciduous or evergreen will determine the type of fertilizer you need. I recommend using fertilizer spikes for a slow release feeding especially for large and mature trees And always remember to consult an arborist for any questions or concerns you may have about the trees on your property.