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Wood chips or bark: What makes the best mulch?

Make a "donut" of mulch around a tree. (Photo
courtesy Sacramento Tree Foundation)
SacTree shares tips, hosts mulching event

What’s the best mulch for trees?

According to the Sacramento Tree Foundation, wood chips make the best mulch.

Avoid rocks or bark, said Pamela Frickmann Sanchez, the foundation’s education program manager.

Rocks absorb heat and add nothing to the soil. Bark takes too long to break down. But wood chips slowly release nutrients while also retaining moisture and keeping soil (and roots) cool.

“Put the wood chips directly on top of the soil (or lawn surrounding the tree),” Sanchez instructed. “Don’t use landscape fabric underneath; that prevents decaying wood chips from benefiting the soil. All that rich organic matter just ends up on top of the fabric, feeding weeds and not the tree. You’ll end up with worse weeds than with no fabric at all.”

Get more mulching advice – and help lots of trees – during SacTree’s upcoming Mulch Day at Bohemian Park in Arden-Arcade. Starting at 8:45 a.m. Aug. 24, volunteers will spread wood chip mulch around the park’s trees.

“We mix mulching with education,” Sanchez said. “You’ll learn as we work.”

That includes the correct way to mulch a tree. Spread the chips like a thick doughnut around the tree, leaving space next to the trunk.

All ages are welcome to join in during the Aug. 24 event, part of SacTree’s summer-long Mulch Mayhem campaign. Register in advance at SacTree’s website.

Bohemian Park is located at 3131 Wright St., Sacramento. Participation in Mulch Day is free.

For more tips and to sign up for Mulch Day: .


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For week of Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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