Happy Halloween! In the past week and a half, with the help of volunteers, NMRWA has cared for 80 trees in the watershed, getting them ready for winter.
Last Thursday, October 23, NMRWA staff and volunteers began working to care for more than 60 trees around Turner Elementary and along Laketon Road in Wilkinsburg’s first ward. The 18 young trees located around the playground and in the school’s front lawn were weeded and mulched, and special care was taken to avoid burying tree root flares with mulch, a phenomenon called volcano mulching. Volcano mulching is, unfortunately, a common site in urban landscapes. Burying a tree’s root flare with mulch has the potential to introduce fungal infections to the trunk, encourage girdling roots, suffocate roots, and move water away from the root ball. All of these can be detrimental to a young trees establishment or long term health, so we are careful to instruct volunteers on proper mulching techniques.
The next day, we worked with a group of Chatham University Environmental Studies students to continue weeding and mulching the trees along Laketon Road. The students worked assiduously to remove all weeds from each tree pit by pulling them out completely by the roots. Weeds have fine feeder roots that are close to the soil surface to grab water, minerals, and oxygen, as well as deeper roots that can extend into the same areas as tree roots, so removing weeds from the tree pits helps reduce the competition for valuable water and nutrients.
After finishing up on Laketon Road, on Tuesday, October 28, we worked with volunteers on Edgewood Avenue in Swissvale to remove weeds and add mulch to nearly 20 red maples that line the Busway. These trees are growing in a challenging area so yearly maintenance to improve the conditions for the trees is important. Mulching a tree’s root system helps control extreme soil temperatures, retain soil moisture, reduce soil compaction, and promotes root growth which is essential to establishment. As a general rule, we like to make sure mulch is maintained at a three to four inch layer.
Thank you to all our wonderful volunteers, and to the Wilkinsburg Department of Public Works for donating extra wheelbarrows for us to use at these events! Join us for our last tree event of 2014 next Saturday, November 8th when we’ll be planting trees in Swissvale!