Weirdly this was not initially intuitive to me. Instead I tried solomon's seal, wild strawberry, ginger, violets ... even mints. Then one day I realized: this tree wants me to FEED it. And there began the mulch pile. I occasionally rake it, keep it clean (errant dog poop, odd bits of litter) & of course, I leave some space around the bottom of the trunk so it won't rot.
I've gone this route for about 4 years now. The tree is growing fabulously. And I don't have to worry about bagging leaves in the fall, or the tree's roots getting dinged by too much heat (the mulch keeps them cooler) or drought in the summers because of poor soils that are unable to hold organic matter (& thus not able to hold moisture.) What-do-the-neighbours-say? "Smart." Last year at the height of summer (when the mulch pile is low, brown & decaying) one neighbour said "I like the natural look of it, let's continue it down 3 properties." :)
BTW: This tree is a basswood, and as it turns out, basswoods make exceptionally good leaf mulch and they require it too. "Basswood is a soil enhancer. Its leaves are very rich in calcium and magnesium, and well above average in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus content. They are living, breathing, non-polluting fertilizer factories. Decomposed basswood leaves nourish and neutralize the soil, boosting the growth of basswoods themselves, as well as surrounding trees and other flora ... [it uses it leaves to] ...ensure its own health and growth." - Glen Blouin, An Eclectic Guide to Trees east of the Rockies.
Though a tree grows ever so high, the falling leaves return to the root.- Malay proverb
- Spacing Magazine's Fall 2007 "Green Issue" has an entire article by Todd Irvine about mulching around street trees.
- More of Todd Irvine's writing can be found on Tuesdays at Spacing Wire