Nor Cal Phone: 916.435.9736

SoCal Phone: 805.371.3710

Lavish Gardens Landscape

Gardening Tips


Updated January 2011

What is the best, single thing that a Homeowner can do to help their trees and shrubs?  In most cases, the correct answer can be stated in one word - Mulch.  "Why" you ask?  Because mulching closely parallels how trees grow in nature. 

The next time you are in the woods take a close look at the trees.  Notice that there is a deep layer of leaves on the surface.  If you reach down and dig a little, you will find beneath the leaf (duff) layer a rich layer of decomposed plant material.  Growing into this layer you should fine some very small roots.  If you look around you will notice, as well,  that there is very little grass growing underneath the trees.  The roots that are growing very close to the surface are tree roots.  The roots are present in this organic layer because the water, nutrients, and oxygen they need to grow are all found there in abundance.  As this duff layer decomposes, the nutrients it contains are released back into the soil.  Each fall, when the leaves fall from the trees, this process replenishes this biologically rich layer.

Now, take a look at the trees in your yard.  Instead of a thick layer of decomposing plant material, you will probably find a nice thick carpet of grass.  If you dig in this area, you may find a few tree roots compared to the number of grass roots that you encounter.  There will be just a thin layer, if any, of decomposing plant material.  When the trees drop their leaves in our yards, we rake them up and haul them away.

When you plant your trees in a yard of grass, you are forcing them to grow in an unnatural situation.  Most trees' roots are found in the top 3 feet, with the majority of the absorbing roots located in the top 12 inches, and 80% of those in the top 6 inches.  When you add in the grass roots there aren't enough nutrients and water left for the tree. 

When root competition is combined with other urban problems such as poor soils, air pollution, mechanical injury, and restricted root space, it is no wonder that some of our trees don't look healthy.  By mulching our trees and shrubs in the urban landscape, we can try to duplicate the natural conditions in which the tree or shrub grows.

Just what do I mean by mulching?  Mulching is simply the addition of organic material around the base of your trees and shrubs.  There are many ways this can be accomplished, but the simplest way is to use wood chips.  Wood chips are readily available, inexpensive, easy to work with, long lasting, and attractive.  By replacing turf with mulch, we can improve the condition in which the trees or shrubs must grow in. 

Mulching is one of the best things you can do for your plants.

Jeff Newborn
Certified Arborist WE5614A
Newborn's Certified Arborist and Consulting

Want abundant flowers?

Updated February 2011

Use an organic Phosphorus fertilizer such as Bone Meal, which can be found at most local nurseries. I prefer Bone Meal with or instead of a slow release fertilizer as it is absorbed by the plant faster, producing more flowers. Using Bone Meal promotes flowering and fruiting in those plants we love to see and smell. Use Bone Meal every 30 days during growing seasons. You should always use it when planting annuals. Spread the Bone Meal around your plants and/or work it through the soil if you can, and then water it in. Also, you should wash it off the plant if you get it on the leaves. Unlike nitrogen fertilizers it won't burn your plants, but proper care should be taken whenever using fertilizers. Enjoy your Flowers!