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Bad planting

In my everyday job as a certified arborist working for a small tree company I run across it every day---trees that are suffering because of incorrect planting. I suspect this is not a situation unique to Illinois.

I am wondering if other states have open dialog with landscape organization to discuss this problem and the other big one, volcano mulch. Does your state have a professional organization for landscapers? Does the landscape organization and the arborist organization talk to each other about ways to help trees get off to a good start and thereby live longer.

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  • Greg,

     

    I believe your asessment is "on point". When I used the term "Volcano Mulch" - not lava rock mulch - in my response to Chris on October 3rd, I was referring to the inappropriate construction of "mountains of organic mulch" that are placed in such a way as to mound up around, and bury, the root flare and lower trunk of a tree, and, as well, covering over the top of the root ball. What this assures is a dense, ultimately-compacted mulch that inhibits water penetration/percolation, and fosters sprouting from surficial roots and from the base of the trunk of the tree. There seems to be a competition among unknowing grounds maintenance folks in Miami to determine who can mound up the largest quantity of mulch around the trunk of a tree or palm. When the selected "colorized mulch" is thus placed - red, yellow, orange, etc. - the landscape becomes a "funkadelic" catastrophe, rather than an environmental pleasure.

    Ted Baker, FASLA

    Landscape Architect

    Miami, Florida

     

    Greg Fenn said:

    In the “Volcano Mulch” animation recently posted, the message is simply to not pile mulch around a tree trunk like a “volcano” – whatever type of mulch is used. A cute little animation, but not what I expected.   

    So, on the topic of lava rock mulch, (not volcanoes), I thought I would make a few comments, in my own simple layman terms. 

    Here in Georgia, with plentiful pinestraw, pine bark, and wood chips, the use of lava rock mulch is an expensive alternative. But, economics aside,

    Pine bark and pine straw, while they may look odd under a grove of oak trees, they at least add humus in the process of decay.  

    Lava rock mulch doesn’t decay. Under an attractive covering of “forest by-product” mulch, a healthy population of worms and other beneficial organisms maintain a porous soil layer that absorbs water and feeds the trees. Lava rock and gravel don’t offer the same benefit to the soil and plants.

    Sorry to seem preachy - to a choir that already knows the words - but I think some of us are confused with the landscapers' terms volcano and lava mulch.

     

  • In the “Volcano Mulch” animation recently posted, the message is simply to not pile mulch around a tree trunk like a “volcano” – whatever type of mulch is used. A cute little animation, but not what I expected.   

    So, on the topic of lava rock mulch, (not volcanoes), I thought I would make a few comments, in my own simple layman terms. 

    Here in Georgia, with plentiful pinestraw, pine bark, and wood chips, the use of lava rock mulch is an expensive alternative. But, economics aside,

    Pine bark and pine straw, while they may look odd under a grove of oak trees, they at least add humus in the process of decay.  

    Lava rock mulch doesn’t decay. Under an attractive covering of “forest by-product” mulch, a healthy population of worms and other beneficial organisms maintain a porous soil layer that absorbs water and feeds the trees. Lava rock and gravel don’t offer the same benefit to the soil and plants.

    Sorry to seem preachy - to a choir that already knows the words - but I think some of us are confused with the landscapers' terms volcano and lava mulch.

     



  • Bootsie Rose said:


      I've had tree "pruners" come to me with bucket trucks but they are suprised when I ask questions and don't agree with their pruning suggestions. Patience and vigilance and luck in my case has kept my trees alive. I do have old trees,huge trees.I ask to see a license but only one I saw was the absent superviser for the trees over the power lines. He had to show up because I grilled his team.All of the cost is on me,also the liability if a branch slams down onto a car,inconvient if it comes through the roof. Folks have said I should sell my prairie to cut my workload,but it's my beautiful trees that are real pleasure and work.  But about Volcanic ash,I would think that might grind the roots like diatomacoeus earth,which I've found helpful to try to check borers and ants that get the sap bleeding,they get cut up crawling through it.  It's harder to mow my yard because I have a "forest" look ,I don't trim up from the ground for "effiecient mowing".Talking about me, I am just glad to have the education I do,or this would be a horror story. Ask anyone in town where"THAT" elm tree is and it's mine! The "Tree Huggers" would LOVE Chris Mest photographs.1080123680.jpeg?width=121

    For Rosie!

  • Thanks for the feedback Oscar. You are in a little different position than me. As an arborist, I get called in years later, after things go wrong. The action you describe, being on site to supervise the planting, is something I suggest to homeowners all the time. I even give them the proper planting brochure from Trees Are Good.

    Are there lines of communication between landscapers, nurserymen and arborists in your area? You would think since we are all in the "GREEN" industry we would have the common goal of planting trees properly and keeping them alive. Unfortunately, sometimes "GREEN" means the pursuit of money!

  • In all my years of planting trees the best solution to correct bad planting was to be at the job site every day and inspect and correct before acceptance and payment.   I have planted trees from Houston to El Paso and even with my own guys, they would take a short cut if not monitored.  I have made a lot of contractors upset with me, but the trees were always planted correctly.  These days, when Im asked to comment on tree health on newly planted projects as to why they are not preforming well, almost always it's poor planting or poor quality stock.   I recently visited a site where the contractor was planting  dead red oaks.  Then I received a call a few days later from the LA asking why red oaks don't do well here and the contractor wants to subsititute.  I have no authority, but I did have to mention that the trees were DOA.   Good luck, be persistant, write good specs and most of all MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ULTIMATE AUTHORITY OVER THE PROJECT!

  •   I've had tree "pruners" come to me with bucket trucks but they are suprised when I ask questions and don't agree with their pruning suggestions. Patience and vigilance and luck in my case has kept my trees alive. I do have old trees,huge trees.I ask to see a license but only one I saw was the absent superviser for the trees over the power lines. He had to show up because I grilled his team.All of the cost is on me,also the liability if a branch slams down onto a car,inconvient if it comes through the roof. Folks have said I should sell my prairie to cut my workload,but it's my beautiful trees that are real pleasure and work.  But about Volcanic ash,I would think that might grind the roots like diatomacoeus earth,which I've found helpful to try to check borers and ants that get the sap bleeding,they get cut up crawling through it.  It's harder to mow my yard because I have a "forest" look ,I don't trim up from the ground for "effiecient mowing".Talking about me, I am just glad to have the education I do,or this would be a horror story. Ask anyone in town where"THAT" elm tree is and it's mine! The "Tree Huggers" would LOVE Chris Mest photographs.

  • Ted,

    Thanks for your comment. You are definitely right that the "Green Industry" has failed, although the "Trees Are Good" brochure on mulching does teach that "volcano mulch" is wrong, in teaching proper mulching and planting. In Illinois, we have more "volcanoes" than Hawaii. LOL! The problem here in Illinois is that most landscape companies do not belong to the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association.

    Around here we say, "anyone with a pickup truck and a shovel can call themselves a landscaper". Also, "anyone with a pickup truck and a chainsaw can call themselves a tree company."  Unfortunately, this idea has transferred to the public. For the most part, they do not see our part of the "Green Industry" (the part with the green plants) as being very professional. This is a problem I have been speaking about for years and continues to frustrate me. When people look for other professional services they do not base their decision on who is the cheapest. Yes, price does figure into it but what about knowledge, experience, reputation, reliability, honesty? If you are hiring a doctor, lawyer, mechanic or plumber do you look for the one that charges the least or one that is competent?

    We have to work to change this ourselves otherwise we have no one to blame but ourselves. In my opinion, the IAA and ISA need to do more to change this situation. Websites/ groups such as American Grove do a lot to promote professionalism and I urge every member to encourage their fellow "green industry" colleagues to join.

    As for the problem of bad planting a simple solution was suggested to me last night by a lady I highly respect and who has become my mentor in tree advocacy. The idea is this---more arborists/ tree companies should plant trees. Let's make it our goal to put the companies who do it wrong out of the tree planting business.

  • Interesting to hear about "Volcano Mulch" in Illinois. This must be a growing national penchant, for here in Miami - despite Ag Extension staff that regularly informs as to Best Management Practices (they offer course work under this title) - one can observe "Volcano Mulch" in both public and private landscape venues. The preponderant lack of knowledge with regard to tree and palm installations - a rootball's relationship to adjacent finished grade; use of mulch (if desired) and its appropriate cross-section above a rootball; and care of these species - is abundantly clear. The failure of the "Green Industry" - landscape contractors, nurserymen, landscape maintenance contractors, Certified Arborists, and Registered Landscape Architects - to collectively establish appropriate standards, remains inexcusable. In past meetings of the Advisory Council to the Miami-Dade Ag Extension Service (Homestead, Florida), discussions were held on establishing a local "standard planting specification", which sadly went nowhere. Until the industry understands the absolute necessity for such standards on a county or regional basis - the implementation of root stimulant; hydrogel; designed planting mix; fertilizer; installation standards; pruning and water regimes; and the like - issues such as "Volcano Mulch" will remain the measure of the professional competence within the industry.

    Ted Baker, FASLA

    Landscape Architect

    Miami, Florida

  • It is not unique.  In Georgia we have two separate entities for Arborist and Landscapers and we do not talk enough!  I am on the board of the Arborist organization and I will make a point of bringing it up, I think it is a very simple thing.  There is some combining of expertise in our Urban Forest Council, which I consult to. Great point. A good start is getting our ANSI standards for planting and construction out there.  I plan to write a blog on them in American Grove soon. 

  •   There is not even an extension agent here. I've worked individually with different companies. They really don't seem to be very educated about horticulture,often frustrating to me.The Master Gardeners Program slipped away. I guess I should go to a city council meeting,they are ramping up for bike lanes and such. The city is growing FAST.There are zero trees in businesses at this time.Great question! I never thought to go to the city council before! Thanks!

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