It's that time of year, we start thinking about freshening up our landscape once this drab Chicago Winter passes. Every spring the smell of freshly laid mulch christens the air. Along with the fresh smell of mulch comes one of the biggest mulching mistakes: volcano mulch.
You see it on every corner, every neighborhood parkway. All the trees are piled high around the base with mulch. While some may think this is the proper way to mulch trees, it is not.
When first installing a new tree, you want to make sure the hole dug for the tree will allow for the top of the root ball to be about an inch below the grade level. You can then backfill the tree making sure the root flare is still visible.
It is best to rototill the area before you dig to loosen up
the soil which will allow for easier digging. If there is a
wire cage around the root ball, this should be removed
before planting the tree.
Once the wire cage and the burlap is pulled back from the
sides of the tree - burlap under the root ball is okay as long as the burlap isn't treated or plastic. Mulch should be added, making sure no mulch is touching the trunk of the tree. Newly planted trees should be watered every seven (7) to 10 days for the first year.
This is an example of a newly planted tree with volcano mulch and the tree being staked. Mulch should not be mound up around the tree. A properly mulch tree will not have mulch visible above the grass. Piling mulch up around the base around the trunk keeps the trunk moist and susceptible to rot and disease. Mulch piled high will also allow the roots to come to the surface looking for water. When roots are at the surface, they are at risk for being injured due to mowers running over them when mowing the yard.
Staking of trees is another mistake many people make when planting new trees. Tree roots depend on the wind to help the roots become structurally balanced.
For more information on proper planting procedures for trees, please visit The Arbor Day Foundation website.