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Landscape Tree Ring

landscape tree ring 1
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Landscape Tree Ring

The second area of confusion is what in the heck to do with that berm when your tree starts to grow larger. This is where a lot of people will build a rock fortress several stones high then fill it in with dirt because now it looks silly :-/…yes it does. Better still (sarcasm) they will build a very small diameter stone fortress (as shown above) that will one day be a prison for a growing tree that must have room to spread its proverbial limbs. Now you have an expensive pile of rubble and a girdled tree.  If you like the look of a stone border around your trees, make it large and low, you should be able to see the tree “flair” or “bell shape” at the base of the tree trunk coming from the ground. After about the 2nd year a tree no longer requires the mulch berm, now it needs a tree ring.  A ring you say? Yes a tree ring that is wide and flat and serves another purpose than its rotund counterpart. I ask often and will continue to do so, “when was the last time you saw a tree in the woods and it had sod underneath it?”  You didn’t, you saw organic matter and symbiotic plant life, but not a carpet of competition and sadness. Grass is a water hog and eats up all the trees nutrients by blocking the organic matter that would be there naturally.
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Landscape Tree Ring

A tree ring creates a defined border around the base of a tree, but the construction and design of the ring can affect the tree’s growth. Many of a tree’s roots grow near the surface of the soil and extend beyond the drip line of the tree canopy. To prevent damaging the roots and harming the tree, any digging should stay shallow. Build the ring several feet from the trunk and maintain the same soil grade. With key design considerations in mind, you can create a polished look with a tree ring that doesn’t harm the tree.
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Landscape Tree Ring

Obviously there are various stages of tree growth and mulch provides a number of benefits to the tree as follows.  When a tree is a sapling (baby tree) and newly planted you create what is called a mulch “berm”. A berm is to be built in the shape of a tire. The berm starts approximately 8 inches away from the base of the tree trunk and should end at least 3′ out from the trunk. The center 8″ is completely  level with the ground. The outer ring is just that, a ring, much like a doughnut with about a 6″ high bump that serves as a swell to hold water in when the sapling or baby tree gets watered or is fortunate enough to receive rain.
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Landscape Tree Ring

Thomas, I agree that the look of unmulched trees is wonderful!. Mulch rings too often lead to mulch volcanoes, a landscape feature that drives me nuts (they're a way for landscapers to sell more mulch, and unfortunately the trend is copied all over by landowners who see it and think it's the thing to do. But mulch rings of a reasonable height do serve a valuable purpose — they keep the landscapers (and homeowners, too) and their damaging weed whackers away from the tree trunks. It doesn't take too much repeated trauma from string trimmers to damage bark, and then cambium, and even if a tree isn't girdled, trunk injury can shorten a tree's safe life.Landscape conditions make a difference, too in the decision of whether or not to use mulch rings. In a large public park, where compaction from heavy foot traffic can be a problem, very large mulch areas can protect the soil, add organic matter, and make oxygen more available to tree roots. In a residential setting where compaction from traffic may be less of an issue and where a knowledgeable homeowner can dictate how the lawn is mowed, how soil is fed and cultivated, and how/if string trimmers are used, then a mulch-ring free landscape is clearly more appealing.
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Landscape Tree Ring

DebJanuary 21, 2011 12:46 PMThomas, I agree that the look of unmulched trees is wonderful!. Mulch rings too often lead to mulch volcanoes, a landscape feature that drives me nuts (they're a way for landscapers to sell more mulch, and unfortunately the trend is copied all over by landowners who see it and think it's the thing to do. But mulch rings of a reasonable height do serve a valuable purpose — they keep the landscapers (and homeowners, too) and their damaging weed whackers away from the tree trunks. It doesn't take too much repeated trauma from string trimmers to damage bark, and then cambium, and even if a tree isn't girdled, trunk injury can shorten a tree's safe life.Landscape conditions make a difference, too in the decision of whether or not to use mulch rings. In a large public park, where compaction from heavy foot traffic can be a problem, very large mulch areas can protect the soil, add organic matter, and make oxygen more available to tree roots. In a residential setting where compaction from traffic may be less of an issue and where a knowledgeable homeowner can dictate how the lawn is mowed, how soil is fed and cultivated, and how/if string trimmers are used, then a mulch-ring free landscape is clearly more appealing.ReplyDelete
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Landscape Tree Ring

Here is a proper tree berm for a young tree (all be it a large one), it should serve as a “well” to collect water. As the tree matures, you simply remove the “lip” around the edge of the berm and create a flat ring to serve as a barrier against the sod and as a place to add nutrients for the tree.
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Landscape Tree Ring

In order to water a tree correctly, homeowners need to know what lies beneath the surface of the soil. The graphic below depicts a mature tree. The tree roots are found in the top three feet of the soil and extend beyond the “drip line” of the tree canopy, which is the most active water absorption area. Mature trees need deep water during the dry months of the year in order to stay healthy and resist pests and diseases.
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Landscape Tree Ring

The addition of mulch under a young tree is intended to mimic the characteristics of a healthy forest floor, which is covered with a layer of decomposing leaves/biomass. Mulch is added until the tree has grown to a sufficient size that it is creating its own layer of biomass from its falling leaves and dead branches. Biomass under a tree accomplishes a variety of functions:- to retain moisture- reduce erosion – To inhibit the growth of weeds- to breakdown over time and improve the fertility of soil I agree that the mulch rings photographed in the image header of this article are somewhat absurd looking and far from functional, aside from their reported abiltiy to inhibit mechanized mowers from crashing into the trunk. Working with agroforestry and land restoration I cringe when I see bare earth beneath a tree. From a form-through-function standpoint, forget the costly, labor intensive lawn entirely and replace the whole thing with a thick layer of biomass. Decomposing organic matter is the essential source of all life on the planet.
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But isn’t mulch good for trees? And doesn’t lawn compete with the trees for nutrients? Mulch is indeed good for trees, and lawn does compete with trees for water and nutrients. The problem is that the feeder roots of trees extend much beyond the mulch rings. In fact, feeder roots can actually extend 20-50 feet beyond the dripline of the tree. The tiny ring of mulch around the tree base covers only a fraction of the overall area of the roots of a canopy tree, negating much of the benefits of mulch.
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9 Photos of the "Landscape Tree Ring"

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