Sunday, May 13, 2012

Volcano Mulch

That's how the reader who alerted Gossips to the problem described it: volcano mulch--mulch heaped up in a mound around the trunk of a tree, resembling a volcano. That's how the Department of Public Works has applied the mulch around the trees in Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. 

Some may think this looks attractive--the same thing has been done with the trees in front of Crosswinds on Harry Howard and at Greenport Commons--but it's actually bad for the trees. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation offers this advice for mulching trees: "Apply 2-4" of organic mulch at least the width of the crown. Mulch should not touch the trunk or the trunk flare [the point at which the roots begin to branch from the trunk]. Do not mound the mulch up against the trunk as this will damage the tree." 


  1. Two summers ago I met with the NYS DEC's Urban & Community Forestry Program Manager.

    Earlier that spring I'd witnessed the same ignorant mulching practice at the waterfront park that's documented in the above post, and which our DPW insists on repeating year after year.

    When I asked the state urban treescaping czar for her opinion, she bemoaned the practice of "volcano mulching" as being very detrimental, but added that all New York state can do is to try to educate people.

    I recommended making proper mulching practice a condition of state assistance; after all, why should the state pay for trees which municipalities subsequently harm?

    The Hudson DPW has amply demonstrated that it refuses to avail itself of the community knowledge base; ignores state recommendations in favor of ill-informed customs; and even disregards state law (I refer to the numerous infractions at the waterfront over the past two years alone, several of which were reported to DEC enforcement).

    If little can be achieved where there's no political will, then I maintain that many of Hudson's problems can be traced to its citizenry.

    Something as seemingly insignificant as the stupid practice of "volcano mulching" reflects on us in the end, on citizens. It underlines just how little control we have about anything that goes on around here. As the state official inadvertently admitted to me, as long as this is our city then the city's poor landscaping practices are ultimately our own faults. (One wonders what else this reasoning can't be extended to?)

    Just watch: a year from now we'll be reading this same "volcano mulching" story at Gossips while still bemoaning our helplessness!

  2. the DPW really isnt interested in learning anything about what they are paid to do - as a citizen we are expected to pay their salaries and shut up - or else

  3. Thanks Carole, we're fixing our own volcano mulching thanks to you!

  4. Carole, while the piling of mulch against the tree trunk is a detriment to the health of the tree and should not be done. I do give them kudos for using dark brown mulch and not the red stuff that is often used.

  5. You're right, Tim, and I absolutely agree. I thought about mentioning it, but I wanted the post to be more about best practice than aesthetics.

  6. I guess it's an acquired palette that kills them with brown instead of red.

    BTW, I meant no offense to you CW. It's just that the DPW already knows the right way to do it, yet year after year opts to disregard proper practice. And we're paying for this.

    For those who do care, our dear city's typical and sorry answer has achieved a foolish consistency through long practice.