We have spread ground-up tree trimmings around some of our Southern Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) to great effect. This material has been provided by tree trimming companies working in the area, hired by the power company to keep the electrical lines clear. The trimmers are glad to have a place nearby to dump the ground-up limbs and branches they’ve collected and we are happy to have it.
The change it makes to an oak tree is truly amazing. In short order the tree gets muscular by filling out with new green growth. More leaves pop out; more chlorophyll converts more solar energy into more sugars. The tree begins to thrive. The ground under the tree's canopy attains a new, robust ecology as the detrievores and other critters get to work by boring into the soil, aerating it and converting the woody debris into nutrients that are added to the soil and taken up by the tree’s roots.
In addition, a layer of mulch is said to conserve moisture in the soil and dissuade the growth of weeds and such. As an extra-added bonus, the thick, lumpy ground loudly calls attention to itself. It is intimidating to thoughtless automobile drivers and discourages them from driving or parking on the tree’s tender roots.
Near the crosswalk up Parish Parkway is an experiment using this technique that awaits execution. The ground around several pitiful, scrawny, and misshapen Live Oaks, one that looks like a refugee from a Dr. Seuss illustration, appears to be in dire need of a top-dressing with the magic mulch. I await to see the results with the fervor of an evangelical preacher.
Additionally, we use only the finest of pine-straw mulches in our formally planted garden areas. This material is cheap, comes from local sources, making it easy to obtain, and is easy to deploy — simply shake it on like it had gently fallen from the tree. It has all the qualities of a proper much without any of the harmful environmental consequences found in other types of mulch like that from ecologically endangered coastal cypress and those loaded with bizarre and colorful artificial dyes.