One pedestrian recently spotted a disturbing bit of landscaping outside a local grocery store and headed over to Reddit to share the horror.
“These poor Honeylocust trees outside a grocery store were all mulched like this,” the poster wrote, concluding with a warranted frowny face. The accompanying photo showed a thin tree trunk surrounded by a tightly packed hill of mulch.
The reason for the poster’s dismay is that, even though these “mulch volcanoes” have become a somewhat popular landscaping trend, they are terrible for the trees. While its practitioners may believe they are protecting the tree’s trunk, surrounding a tree with mulch actually causes multiple problems that will decrease its health and lifespan.
These problems include: increased temperature and water retention around the roots of the tree, which leads to harmful fungi and bacteria growth; providing a home for rodents that will chew through the tree’s roots; and confusing the tree into growing its roots up into the mulch instead of into the soil.
Instead of creating a mulch volcano around the tree trunk, experts recommend mulching the soil around the tree instead.
Gardening and growing plants can be a great way to get outdoors, interact with nature, and help out your local ecosystem — but it’s always worth doing the research to find out if the gardening tactics you are employing are helping or hurting. As evidenced by the number of mulch volcanoes popping up all over the place, landscapers and gardeners do not always engage in best practices.
And trees are especially important to treat well, as they perform the crucial function of cleaning our air, pulling out carbon dioxide, and releasing oxygen. According to the U.S. Forestry Service, “In the United States, forests, wood products, and urban trees collectively offset annual CO2 emissions by roughly 10-15 percent.”
“I’m visiting Chicago, and I see so many volcano-mulched and brick-’mulched’ trees, and I wish I could save them all,” wrote one commenter.
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