Secrets to Great Soil - Mulch

How to Grow and Care for Your 250 + Year Old Tree, Part 3 of 5

by Rachel and Odis Sisk

Secrets to Great Soil


If performed correctly, mulching gives the most advantageous results with the least amount of work and cost.

Mulching provides suitable environment for root growth and micro organisms.

Most mulch is processed wood material consisting of differing sizes, species, and qualities.  

Why Mulch?

  • moderates soil temperature
  • moderates moisture loss from soil
  • breaks down, giving nutrients back
  • provides habitat for ogranisms to break down beneficial nutrients
  • controls weeds
  • aids in soil decompaction
  • is aesthetically pleasing

Types of Mulch

 Leaves - A tree's natural mulch.  In most cases, leaves should be left on the ground under the tree's canopy or composted and returned.
Regular Arborist Grade – coarser ground and non colored.  As long as the soil structure and organic material volume is correct, regular ground mulch is fine, because it doesn’t deteroriate as quickly – usually can get it for free.  This is what comes out of the chipper.
Arborist Grade Mulch

If you get mulch from an arborist make sure the mulch sits until the internal temperature decreases to the surrounding air temperature.  It gets really hot, and then decreases.  This heat has potential to kill harmful pathogens (ex: some fungus, some insects)  and some unwanted seeds.
Double Ground – Purchased from landscape suppliers, normally differing species of a consistent size.  Colored options are available.  This type is the best because it breaks down quicker.

Mulch Colors
Single Species – cypress, pine
          Cypress – not very environmentally friendly due to the fact that it is harvested from cypress trees grown in swamp ecosystems.
          Pine – Fine as long as it is not pine bark only, which is commonly the case. 

Ground Cover - Not Mulch, only for aesthetics

  • Pine Bark Mulch
  • Pine Straw
  • Rocks

Pine Bark - The bark is the protective layer (epidermis) of the tree, not the nutrient transporting layer, and therefore not very "nutritious."  This doesn’t provide the same type of benefits as regular tree mulch.

Pine Straw - Pinestraw when broken down does not give back very much nutrients.  It is not sustainable. 

Rocks - Rocks are only considered ornamental.  Rocks can cause unwanted soil temperature increases, because they retain heat – heat deters advantageous root growth. 

Rock Ground Cover

How to apply mulch

Mulch should be applied to a depth of no more than 2.5 inches.

Apply the mulch to the largest area possible, preferably to the edge of the tree canopy or even beyond the edge of the canopy.

What you can do to protect the longevity of your trees.

1. Soil Decompaction - Summer 2012 Edition
2. Proper Pruning - Autumn 2012 Edition
3. Mulching -This Edition, Winter 2013
The following Preservation Reports will discuss the last 2 tips to care for your 250+ year old tree.
4. Watering
5. Not Physically damaging the tree
At the beginning of December 2012 we traveled to Germany for Global Tree Preservation.  Odis taught several arboriculture classes and Rachel did some product illustration for Drayer's 2013 tree equipment catalog.

Several of our photos will be on Facebook and a blog about our trip will be up in the next few days.
(678) 617-1223

Odis Sisk
ISA Certified Arborist

Rachel Sisk
Office Manager
Copyright © 2013 Odis and Rachel Sisk, All rights reserved.
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