Improper mulching shortens tree life

PERRYSBURG — Many residents may receive a little blue tag on some of their trees which line public
streets. The blue tag is from the city offices regarding improper mulching of the trees.
While there are far more trees which are improperly mulched, the city will only be tagging those trees
for which they are responsible for paying the replacement costs.
The primary culprit is the use of what is called “volcano-style” mulching of the trees. In this style of
mulching, the mulch is raised around the trunk of the tree and sloping down and outward from the tree
trunk. Many people love the look of that style of mulching, including many landscape companies.
The problem according to Scott Kirby of the tree commission is that looks can be deceiving. That style of
mulching shortens the life of the tree as the roots do not get the proper moisture to keep the tree
healthy and extend its life.
“Garden centers like it, as they can sell more mulch each year to recapture that look,” Kirby said. “That
mulching can actually suffocate the trees.”
The mulching was the focus of a seminar held recently at Way Public Library.
Kirby said that a properly cared for tree may give the homeowner 15-20 years or more of life. Improper
mulching can shorten that average life span to 5-7 years only.
Judy Hager with the City of Perrysburg assisted with the Way presentation and showed those in attendance
many pictures which illustrated both the wrong and the right ways of mulching.
“The damage to the trees happens quickly,” Hager said, adding that this is especially true for newly
planted trees.
While mulch can serve as a deterrent to weeds, Hager said the black plastic sheeting should not be used
as it can also smother the tree.
“I just prefer hand-weeding,” Hager said.
For those who prefer to use chemical treatment, she recommends using only minimal amounts and to be sure
and read the labels.
Hager said now is the best time to add pre-emergent treatments if desired.
Both Kirby and Hager said spending a lot of money for most ground covers is not the best use of funds for
the health and well-being of trees.
General mulching guidelines:
• Never use volcano-style mulching, just a flat level surface with natural dirt is ideal.
• Don’t ignore the blue tag notice should you have one on your tree.
• No mulch or compost should be placed against the tree trunk, even grass near the base of the tree is
not ideal.
• Over mulching serves no purpose for the tree — over mulching is considered abuse.
• Planting trees too deep is equivalent to over mulching as the roots don’t get the sunshine they need.

• Do not mulch within the “drip line” of the tree. The drip-line extends downward to the ground from the
outer most branches and leaves.
• Remove smaller “spider roots” from around the tree as they drain nutrients and do not serve the actual
• River rock or other stone ground covers are also not ideal for the trees, neither are tires or other
items which may be flammable.
• Don’t confuse compost with mulch. Compost is considered “nature’s fertilizer” while compost is mostly
decorative and can serve as a deterrent to weeds.
• The worst thing you can do is to mulch around flowers.
• Do not use horse manure in a garden.
• The city pays $475 per tree, so this is a major investment that the city wishes to protect.
• The city does have mulch for sale.
• Call the city with any questions at 419-872-8020.
• These guidelines apply to all trees; however, the city will only tag trees in the city’s right of way.