Adding 2 inches of soil (garden bed) around mature red maple?


I layered some brown (thin) craft paper and then leaves to help kill the seeds. The wind had it's way with the paper but I think it still did a decent job. I'm hopeful that the combo breaks down and improves the soil and also helps block weeds.

The 1-2" soil above is a garden mix soil so it's a step towards mulch. Still, I'm certainly adding soil. I'm hoping it further ensures the weeds stop growing.

I know they say avoid piling too much as it suffocates the roots. But I'm hoping I'm not going too far? What's the difference between this and a forest continuously having leaves, branches and other items decomposing over time? Or even folks mulch around their trees?

Where is the line drawn between hurts and okay or even helps the tree?

I'm looking to plant some native understory ground cover like wild ginger, common violet and wintergreen. Im hoping it is lower maintenance then the mess of weeds. I certainly don't want grass.

Any advice appreciated.
 

TheTreeSpyder

Participating member
Location
Florida>>> USA
Specifically NOT against trunk, nor root crown, where Doc Shigo defined under microscope that root crown tissues are more of need to breathe trunk/stem tissue than below soil roots type tissue. Well placed/not buried root crown even tries to ramp away coverings from itself and trunk. i was taught /but never seen written, that mulch etc. on root crown can 'sour sap', smother/kill tree. Curiously in many cases, that is the only place many put it in medlings.
root_vs_trunk_tissue.png
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Follow the Natural form requirements seen w/o human or other catastrophe intervention.
Top layer should be looser to breathe than soil that can compact, larger to spread out static footprint, spongy to take impact while spreading force too , that protects from ultraviolent radiation, and blocks competitors(weeds). Natural mulch does these things plus nutrition drizzle, also more helpful in moderating humidity. Shredded tires fits many points if no leaching toxins.
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But even depth or weight of proper mulch can suffocate ground.
Mycorrhizal fungal networks are so delicate a harsh rain can disrupt, let alone an animal tromping thru; so all the static and dynamic impact concerns very valid. Mycorrhizal fungal networks are being studied as most efficient networks to model computer networks by. They are said to share and communicate in amazing ways, even those that would not think.
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Probably not going to kill tree etc. with what doing/trees are survivors, but closer we skew towards the Natural model that DNA is tuned to, the better the expectation of not hindering tree's business.
We can learn more from trees, than ever teach them!
 

evo

Been here a while
Location
My Island, WA
No offense but adding soil isn’t needed. Yes most garden blends are mostly organic matter. You have soil, which could/should be enhanced with little more than Arborist mulch/composted or green. 4-5” or chips breaks down to less than 1/4”. So that is the big difference. That and porosity. Garden soils are black which increases soil temps, and can cook the good stuff, chips reflect more heat. Garden soils tend to have some sand/topsoil or other in organic matter added to what is essentially compost.

Adding chips is more along the lines of the old baseball feel good movie field of dreams. “If you build it they will come”.
 
No offense but adding soil isn’t needed. Yes most garden blends are mostly organic matter. You have soil, which could/should be enhanced with little more than Arborist mulch/composted or green. 4-5” or chips breaks down to less than 1/4”. So that is the big difference. That and porosity. Garden soils are black which increases soil temps, and can cook the good stuff, chips reflect more heat. Garden soils tend to have some sand/topsoil or other in organic matter added to what is essentially compost.

Adding chips is more along the lines of the old baseball feel good movie field of dreams. “If you build it they will come”.
Part of what I'm looking to do (which after rereading I didn't make clear) is plant new ground cover. I didn't want to go digging at the tree roots everywhere or struggling to get anything to start from seed. I this thing layer could give some ground cover a headstart but not damage the tree long term.

The canopy is pretty high and water is plentiful. The trees have no issues growing various unwanted plants but the roots are high and I can't mow and worry string trimming (plus it's a PITA). I want to just get some ground cover going and leave it be.

Wild ginger, common violet, maybe some bulbs and ferns.

Is this not an okay way to get that going versus trying to mulch and then plant things in the soil below and breaking all the feeder roots in the process?
 

DSMc

Been here a while
Location
Montana
... Is this not an okay way to get that going versus trying to mulch and then plant things in the soil below and breaking all the feeder roots in the process?

Truthfully, you would be much better off doing as evo suggested. Using whole tree chips will enhance the soil tremendously while at the same time suppressing unwanted grass or weeds. You can replant with more desirable species immediately, but it would be better to just wait a year.

The growth you see here is in 12 to 18 inches of whole tree chips. When you go to plant, dig a hole in the chips until you hit mineral soil and stop. Fill that hole with planting mix and plant your plant. No need to disturb the trees roots.
 

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Truthfully, you would be much better off doing as evo suggested. Using whole tree chips will enhance the soil tremendously while at the same time suppressing unwanted grass or weeds. You can replant with more desirable species immediately, but it would be better to just wait a year.

The growth you see here is in 12 to 18 inches of whole tree chips. When you go to plant, dig a hole in the chips until you hit mineral soil and stop. Fill that hole with planting mix and plant your plant. No need to disturb the trees roots.
So if I'm half way there... What is best to option to remove? I think it'll be really hard to do it effectively. If I get say 50-75% of it away, will they be enough if that's mixed with tree chips?

And the method you guys are suggesting does work with whole plants not with seeds. Any advice on seeds or should I only be filling with young plants and letting those establish?

What is the risk if I just keep going with this 2" layer of soil? Is there a good chance I hurt / kill the tree?

Just trying to weigh the risk and effort given what's gone on this far. Of course, the tree is really important so will spend the effort if needed. But I went this way since had read small layers of soil were okay and wouldn't hurt the tree.
 

DSMc

Been here a while
Location
Montana
There is not much risk with what you have done, it just won't be very effective in accomplishing what you are planning.

Much of the growth in the picture I posted was from just broadcasting wildflower mix and scratching it into the decomposing mulch after the second year.
 
That makes me feel a bit better.

I do think mulch this year and planting next year could have been a better option. I'm curious though... how does 1-2 year old mulch differ from garden soil? Is it dramatically different in structure? More clay? More sand? Less compostable/organic?

Since what you did is what is like to accomplish with the layer of soil. I'm thinking just compost/much maybe was a better solution?

It's a bit late now. I have another tree I want to do the same with. I can try the compost solution with that one and plant things there next year.

Part of why I wanted to do it in one go is I didn't want to give other plants time to grow and thought the I'd be able to the desirable ones in there and outcompete the others.

What do you think won't work about my plan or how can I work to get it work?

I have southern sun that helps give the area some light. It's a lower lying area so I do get a lot of water. I'm picking natives that do well in these conditions.

Any suggestions here?
 

DSMc

Been here a while
Location
Montana
... What do you think won't work about my plan or how can I work to get it work?

Two inches of planting mix over a handful of leaves and paper will not suppress weeds or withstand erosion. It will not do what you are hoping it will.

Adding fresh whole tree chips, will increase the soils biological activity tremendously. That is arguably the single most important aspect in a healthy and stable growing environment.
 
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evo

Been here a while
Location
My Island, WA
It all depends on scale. I nearly always recommend the smallest specimen of the species you want in the site. Here in the PNW now is a ok planting time but much better in the early fall. Personally I will buy plants and keep them in pots to plant in the fall.
When we say mulch we basically mean "Arborist Chips". bascially anything and everything that goes through our chipper, branches, bark leaves... No rock, sand, gravel, or clay. Within a few few hours to days the microbes start kicking in, in a few weeks to a month its typically not very 'hot'. This is left in a big dump truck pile. Once spread it changes up a bit.
You are feeding the soil with organic matter, and the microbes do the rest/hard work. In time it will self till to some degree as the bugs and crud populations build transporting fine matter into the soil layers below... Aka "if you build it they will come"
 
Thanks you guys.

It sucks since it took a lot of man power to shovel and wheelbarrow the soil to this tree. Fortunately, there is a spot nearby that isn't near a tree that I do need some soil.

I'm thinking maybe I should just rake away as much of the soil as I can and get some chips delivered and put those here instead.

Or should I consider just leaving the soil I have and mixing it with the chips and spreading all of that?

I only have so much time, energy and my wife is only so patient. I'm sure she'd be happier that I don't completely change direction.

What do you guys think?
 
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