Plant more trees, hold the mulch

March 08, 2012

It is encouraging to see Baltimore making an effort to save our mature trees as well as aggressively plant new ones ("Speak for the trees," March 2). Unfortunately, many new trees are sabotaged from the start by the mounds of mulch that are piled around them.

Horticulturists — including the horticulturist at the U.S. National Arboretum — have written about this practice and have tried to explain how harmful it is, but landscapers persist in it, and no one seems to view it as a problem.

Mulch only needs to be an inch or two deep and should not touch the trunk. When these mounds are as deep as the custom now is, rainwater is unable to get through to the ground, the tree desperately sends out rootlets to try to get moisture, and the rootlets are left to shrivel when the mulch dries out.

Horticulturist Scott Akers says "the mound functions as an umbrella over the root zone." Having the mulch piled against the trunk also promotes fungi and insect damage. I see many dead saplings every year —particularly in the median strips — and they're all piled high with mulch.

Overuse of mulching adds unnecessary expense in addition to killing trees and shrubs. It makes tons of money for the landscaping companies both in the application and again when they have to replace dead trees and shrubs. And it looks ridiculous.

Hasn't anyone ever wonder how forests manage to renew themselves without someone dumping a foot of mulch around each sapling?

Georgia Walsworth, Baltimore

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