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Resident questions taking action to correct flawed plan approved by new development: 'Better than leaving it like it is'

"It is as simple as that, yes."

"It is as simple as that, yes."

Photo Credit: Reddit

A homeowner who took to Reddit looking for advice about a peculiar landscaping decision sparked an important conversation.

In a new Philadelphia-area development, a number of trees had been planted incorrectly.

"It is as simple as that, yes."
Photo Credit: Reddit

"They did this according to some landscaping plan they filed with the township, so I didn't pay for the tree or installation," the poster wrote. "It is on my property however.

"Planted in the late fall, I immediately brought the mulch volcano back and said I would try to find the root flare in the spring. Spent 5 minutes digging with a trowel and took away 3-4 inches already…. Should I pay to get this replanted? Complain?"

After the homeowner was told to replant the tree, they wondered: "As simple as digging it back up and putting some soil down to raise it up? It won't stress the tree or damage the roots? It was planted in mid November."

One commenter wrote, "If you're considering the long term implications it won't matter too much if the corrective action stresses the tree a bit, the alternative is early decline of the tree anyways."

They also recommended trying to keep any woody roots intact during the process, using native soil, and watering the hole before replacing the tree to settle the soil and get rid of air pockets.

"Yes, it is as simple as that, yes, it can stress the tree or damage the roots, but not as much as they'll be damaged if they die from being planted too deep," someone else said.

A third person stated, "Better than leaving it like it is."

These Redditors in r/arborists contributed to an important cause: saving trees, even one at a time, from mulch volcanoes. The term refers to the tactic of piling mulch in a cone shape around the trunk of a tree — which does much more harm than good.

Tree trunks and roots need oxygen and the chance to exchange other gases with the environment. Covering even the root flare — the bottom of the trunk that widens above ground level — can result in decay, disease, and even death via trapped moisture. It can also lead to girdling roots, which slowly strangle the tree.

Proper mulching means leaving the bark fully exposed — keep the mulch 2 to 3 inches away from the trunk. The mulch should also be only 2 to 3 inches deep, though you can expand that mulch donut as far as the drip line, the imaginary boundary on the ground that matches where the canopy ends above it.

Tree care is one way to boost your ecosystem. Another is to plant native species, use natural ground cover, or even rewild your yard instead of sticking with traditional turf grass, which hurts biodiversity; contributes to pollution if you use chemical fertilizers, weed prevention, pesticides, or gas-powered maintenance equipment; and wastes an increasingly important resource: water.

These methods can all save you money, too. You may have to make an initial investment — or not, if you make over or rewild your property in stages — but your upkeep costs and water bills will plummet.

And you'll know saving that one tree or transforming your garden was worth it.

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