Mulching your trees

This summer has been a wet one so far; still, trees can become stressed. Mulching is the number one thing to give your tree the boost it needs in difficult conditions.

Mulch benefits:

  • maintains soil moisture by reducing evaporation — and the need for watering
  • acts like an insulating blanket, keeping soil warmer in winter and cooler in  summer
  • improves soil aeration, structure, and drainage
  • inhibits certain plant diseases
  • protects the tree from humans — our feet compacting the soil, and our tools like lawnmowers and grass trimmers

However, too much mulch will stop gases exchange with soil; it can soak up too much moisture, not allowing water to percolate down to the roots; and if it is very near to the root collar of the tree, you can actually initiate crown rot.

So, mulch 2-4" deep, and keep a good 2" away from the stem of the tree.

Keep in mind that the root system of the tree is wider than most people imagine: the roots are typically 1-3 times the size of the canopy of the tree. Ideally, you want to fan the mulch out as far as possible to gain the most benefits (though that much mulch spread around the tree will look a little ridiculous, so find a happy medium).

Types of organic mulch include leaf litter, bark, wood chips, evergreen needles, and compost mixes.

You can also buy inorganic material (stone, rubber, geotextiles). Since they don’t decompose, you don’t need to maintain them. But at the same time, they don’t offer any nutrients or organic components, so the payoff is not nearly as great as organic mulch.


Using canola oil in chainsaws

I’ve had quite a lot of people ask me what I mean by eco-friendly tree care, including “no chain oil”. Chainsaws require a lubricating agent in order to run the chain and bar, and generic chain oil is petroleum based. This means that when a chainsaw is running, virtually all of the oil in the reservoir ends up on the ground. And the oil mist ends up in the user’s lungs.

You can switch from petroleum-based products to common vegetable oil (which is cheaper, too). The downfall is that if you leave vegetable oil out in extreme cold, it will freeze. I solve this problem by keeping my big container of oil inside in the winter, and a smaller bottle to take along to jobs, which gets used up quickly. (Stihl also makes a biodegradable chain oil, but it’s not always available in remote locations--ask your local retailer.)

Europe (and California) is leagues ahead of us in using vegetable-based oils as a common, regulated practice. In Austria, for example, petroleum-based chainsaw oils are totally banned. 

Here’s a very useful article which lays out tips for making the switch, but really, it’s easy!

Wakefield Arborists

Yes, I know we are a good-looking gang, but we also like to contribute to a good cause. Wakefield is known for it's community spirit, so it didn't take much to convince a bunch of guys who love to climb trees to do some much-needed pruning in Geggie Park, on the shores of the Gatineau river in Wakefield. You can see the famous Black Sheep in some of the photos, but from a much different perspective.

My pics of Tampa: 2015 World Tree-Climbing Comp

Man, Florida is hot, even in March! Jeb and I made it down to the ocean on the day after the competition. We had a good time; I didn't get the results I wanted, but the Wakefield covered bridge wasn't built in a day. I will have to return to the Quebec competition in the fall and defend my title to be eligible for the next Worlds, in San Antonio, Texas, 2016.

Check out the Spanish moss in the pines that we were climbing!

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