Sustainable Saratoga is working to educate landscaping professionals and the public about the deadly practice of heaping mulch around the base of trees, creating “mulch volcanoes.” Check out Sustainable Saratoga’s flyer, “Mulch Volcanoes Kill.” Trees are a major investment in Saratoga’s infrastructure that will “pay us back” if we let them survive and thrive. Let’s stop killing them with bad mulching.

“This Old House,” the popular PBS TV show, produced a scary video segment in which they dug up a mulch volcano to explore the damage.

Tidy mulching is great, but tidy doesn’t have to kill. Make a crisp circle of mulch around the tree, but keep the mulch 3 inches from the trunk.

Don’t take Sustainable Saratoga’s word for it. Tree experts from Cornell, from across New York State, and from around the country have condemned “mulch volcanoes” as extremely harmful to the health of trees.

  • Prof. Nina Bassuk, noted tree expert from Cornell’s Urban Horticultural Institute, is widely quoted in her warnings against “mulch volcanoes.” Experts from Cornell’s Cooperative Extension, and from the agricultural extension services of the University of Illinois and the University of Missouri-Columbia have attacked the practice. Maine’s Master Gardeners republished the U. Missouri information.
  • DPW Commissioner Skip Scirocco of Saratoga Springs announced a new DPW policy with this condemnation: Landscaper’s [use mulch volcanoes] because it looks nice…it’s aesthetically pleasing. Problem is, it’s killing the tree.  Homeowner’s not aware of it. But now the City is. We’re not going to allow that practice.“ (August 16, 2016 Council Meeting; archived video available of City website).
  • Some cities have used their urban forestry websites to educate against “mulch volcanoes.”
  • Some progressive, well-informed arborists, landscape professionals, and consultants have bucked the industry trend by using their websites to call for an end to “mulch volcanoes.”

YOU CAN HELP. HELP SPREAD THE WORD. Share this information widely. Share it with friends and neighbors. With your landlord. With fellow condo owners. With businesses you patronize. With anyone who has responsibility for maintaining commercial properties where “mulch volcanoes” are killing trees.

Please send questions, comments, or photos to

mulch volcano dead tree