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Hello Linda - I read your article a few weeks ago about volcano mulching which was very disturbing. You mentioned that allowing mulch to go higher up the tree stem than the flare causes small fibrous roots to start growing into the mulch. Given time, these roots actually wrap around the base of the tree and "girdle" and eventually kill the tree. We have a beautiful copper beach which is approximately 65 years old. About 13 years ago, a landscaper volcano mulched that tree. It still LOOKS healthy, but stopped producing nuts about 2-3 years ago. There are quite a few roots through the mound of mulch now. Is it possible to un-volcano mulch a tree? I would greatly appreciate some guidance because we would hate the loss of this lovely tree. Thanks, Lora

Answer

Hello Linda - I read your article a few weeks ago about volcano mulching which was very disturbing. You mentioned that allowing mulch to go higher up the tree stem than the flare causes small fibrous roots to start growing into the mulch. Given time, these roots actually wrap around the base of the tree and Yes, the mulch can be removed from the base of the tree back down to the root flare (the area at the base of the tree that 'flares out' at the soil surface). Be very gentle and careful when removing the mulch. The bark of the tree will be moist and soft. Try not to nick the tree stem. The small fibrous roots growing through the mulch can be cut at the tree stem surface. Keep removing until you see the base of the tree getting wider (the root flare). If you find any roots that are growing around the tree stem, cut them off. This is a potential 'girdling root'. If you would like our tree care manager to come out and take a look, let me know. I don't know how much mulch you are talking about, but let us know if we can help in any way.

If any of your other plants on your property are 'volcano mulched', remove the mulch. Not only do plants breathe through their leaves, stems and trunks, but plants also breathe through their roots. When there is too much mulch on the soil surface, the plant suffocates. There should only be 1-3" of mulch around the base of plant without touching the plant. This rule goes for perennials, shrubs, trees, grasses, annuals-all plants. Good Luck.

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About Linda Lillie

Linda K. Lillie is the President of Sprigs & Twigs, Inc, the premier landscape design and maintenance, tree care, lawn care, stonework, and carpentry service provider in southeastern Connecticut since 1997. She is a graduate of Connecticut College in Botany, a Connecticut Master Gardener and a national award winning landscape designer for her landscape design and landscape installation work.

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