When we speak of clearing many of us will think of removing a large amount of trees from a specific area. That is not what I am referring to here. Clearing, when it comes to the tree care of young trees, is simply being mindful to pull up any grass and weeds for a radius of at least 2 feet around the tree - or clear the area so that the tree and roots can get the sunlight, water and nutrients they need. Use your spade shovel to cut straight down into the grass. The flat shovel was good for cutting under the roots of the grass to keep the sod in big pieces. Take care to avoid damage to the tree’s roots. Major tree roots often grow within a few inches of the soil surface. Some species, such as maples, grow roots particularly close to the surface. Mulch the area under the tree with compost and/or wood chips. These materials are porous enough to allow sufficient oxygen supply to the soil and may actually encourage fine root growth. Acting as an insulator, the mulch will minimize frost-heaving and erosion.
Mulching also keeps down weeds, thus eliminating competition for water. In addition, much water that otherwise would be evaporated by the sun can soak down through a 2" layer of mulch to the soil around tree roots. Mulching trees also helps keep their roots cooler in hot weather.
Early in the year, when the soil is moist, cover the cleared area with a mulch mat, bark or brushwood chippings, or old piece of carpet. This helps retain moisture near the roots, reduces competition from weeds, and means there is no need to use grass-cutting machinery near the tree where it might damage the bark.
As always, if you have questions about your tree's care, contact your local tree service. As a Chicago tree service, they are well versed in all this and will give you the assistance you need. Those of you that are local to the Chicago area, Trees "R" Us, Inc. will help you with the care of your trees. In addition, their plant health care division has several Chicago certified arborists that are highly trained in caring for plants and trees.
Stay tuned for my final post on the care of young tress that will cover clearing. If you want to read the previous posts on young tree care, click here.
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