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Mulching trees

Join is in helping to restore riparian buffers in Anson B Nixon Park

One of the ways that parks and preserves help to keep our streams healthy is by creating riparian buffers around stream corridors.  Trees and other plants help to control invasives and stabilize the soil to limit run-off.

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One such project was completed in 2022 in Anson B. Nixon Park, with the help of Brandywine Red Clay Alliance. It included the planting of hundreds of trees along the stream. 

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The challenge in this - as in every project - is how to maintain newly planted trees.  Margot loves being out in nature, and so she is happy to help.

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Stroud Water Research Center has demonstrated how mulching can have significant impacts on survival rates of newly planted trees. 

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So each week, we flag trees where the mower does not reach. We check for poison ivy, and then weed whack a ring about 2 1/2' around each tree, also clearing a narrow path to it. 

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We prepare the cardboard beforehand, cutting it into 18x24" pieces and removing all tape and labels. We lay it down in an 18-24" radius around the tree, taking care not to leave any gaps. 

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Through other work with Margot, we know she cannot maneuver a wheelbarrow, so we help her to use a pitchfork to fill 10 gallon buckets with mulch.  These are still a bit too heavy to lift, so we make sure they are only 2/3s full.

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Margot lacks the balance to carry only one bucket, and the strength to carry two. But she can comfortably pull about 20-30 pounds of materials on a cart.   About 4 buckets (5 cu ft) will create a 4-6" thick layer of mulch. 

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Once the bucket is properly placed, she pushes it over.  We added a red handle to the bottom of the bucket, which helps her to lift it straight up and dump the mulch in the right spot

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And so another tree is mulched, increasing its chances of survival. The carboard acts as a weed barrier, decaying slowly over 3-6 months, while the disintegrating mulch adds nutrients to the soil.

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