One content creator who leads the Applied Forestry Management program at University of Maine Fort Kent recently made a TikTok video to warn his 136,000 followers about a common tree maintenance method that can do more harm than good.
Say no to mulch volcanoes too!♬ original sound – Neil Thompson
“This is your springtime warning that these plastic guards are not made to be kept on year-round, year over year,” Neil Thompson (@forestryprof) informed his followers. He then peeled back the plastic guard from a young tree to reveal a writhing mass of earwigs and fungus.
Thompson went on to explain that, while the plastic guard may have protected the tree in transit and prevented mice from chewing through the bark in winter, it had now overstayed its welcome. Over time, the plastic had trapped moisture against the tree trunk, creating a breeding ground for the destructive earwigs and fungus.
“The ultimate cause of death is the plastic sheath,” he said.
“Is this [tree] expected to survive?” asked one concerned commenter.
“The above-ground part is dead,” Thompson replied. “It resprouted from the roots and could have been recovered if we hadn’t put a building there. So no, but yes, but no.”
Instead of protecting a young tree with a plastic sheath, Thompson recommended using something that allows the trunk to breathe. “Solid plastic right against the trunk is not the way!” he said.
In addition to being bad for trees, plastic products are bad for all life on earth — they are made out of oil, don’t break down organically, and should be avoided wherever possible.
“I just use a metal cage. Mostly to keep deer away,” wrote one commenter.
“Much better,” Thompson replied.
Although, as some in the comments pointed out, it may seem like common sense to some gardeners to remove the plastic sheath, Thompson made the point that many people leave them simply because they are never informed otherwise.
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