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Over-mulching root ball cuts off water/causes root problems

over mulched treeToo much mulch over the root ball can intercept water that could have reached the roots. This can cause the roots to dry on newly planted trees causing stress and tree death. For this reason mulch should be pulled back from the trunk at least 12 inches (24-inch diameter circle). This allows water to freely enter the rootball. Remove all the mulch and soil on the tree pictured at right until you find the root flare. Remove roots growing up into the mulch and soil, cut roots that deflect around and are growing close to the trunk, and reset the mulch about 3 inches deep. Irrigate as appropriate if many roots were cut.

Cherry tree example below:

excess mulch and soil over tree root ball
Before removing mulch and soil from the cherry tree (see after photo below)

soil and mulch removed from the tree pictured above
Here is the soil and mulch removed from on top of the root flare on the tree pictured above.
roots that grew up into mulch
After removing soil and mulch, it is easy to see roots that grew up into the soil and mulch placed over the root ball. These can cause problems for the tree if they are not removed or severed.

remove these roots to improve tree health

Remove and cut these roots to improve tree health before placing a thin layer of mulch back on top of the root system.

lighter layerof mulch placed around tree
After removing about a 10-inch-deep layer of soil and mulch that was piled against the trunk and over the root system a thin layer of mulch was placed over exposed roots and soil.