Tree Commission Monthly Tips

The Tree Commission was established in 1994 to advise City Council, Urban Forester (formerly known as Municipal Arborist), Planning Commission and Mayor on matters concerning trees and shrubs on all City managed properties, including tree lawns. The Commission encourages all property owners to protect and grow healthy trees and shrubs to provide long-lasting benefits to all of Avon Lake’s residents and visitors. Articles will appear monthly on Avon Lake’s Environmental Tips and the Senior Newsletter as well as quarterly in the city’s newsletter. Topics will include tree planting and care, Arbor Day, Urban Forestry, and even some tree history. We will learn or be reminded of the benefits trees provide for us.  For example, trees combat pollution by removing particulate pollutants (e.g., dust). Trees also reduce our summer energy bills by providing shade. The cool thing (pun intended) is that whether the trees are on your property, your neighbor’s property or on public property, they are doing good things for everyone!  Trees are an amazing resource that we need to care for so that we can all continue to enjoy their benefits.

Benefits of Mulching Around Your Trees

Urban settings can create harsh conditions for trees, with nearby construction, soil compaction, and lawn management. Proper mulching can relieve some of these impacts and provide the tree with a more natural environment in which to thrive. A 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch can re-create aspects of a forest's native soil environment. It is one of the most beneficial practices a homeowner can do for the health of a tree or shrub. A 2-4 inch layer of organic mulch around a tree or shrub can provide a number of important benefits:

  • Landscape beauty
  • Conserving moisture in the soil
  • Improving soil conditions (soil structure, fertility, and aeration as it decomposes)
  • Moderating soil temperature, protecting roots from extreme summer and winter temperatures
  • Eliminating potential tree damage from mowers and trimmers
  • Preventing soil compaction by reducing foot and vehicle traffic, allowing roots to “breathe"
  • Impeding growth of weeds and grass that compete with tree roots for water and nutrients

Proper Mulching Practices

While proper mulching can be a great benefit to a tree or shrub, excessive or improperly applied mulch can adversely affect plants. Follow these recommendations to bring the most benefits to your trees:

  • Mulch a large area around your tree, preferably to the outermost edge of the tree's canopy or "drip line".
  • Apply only 2-to-4-inches of mulch (and less if the soil is poorly drained). If mulch is too thick, oxygen won’t get to the tree’s roots. Finely textured, double- or tripe shredded mulch should only be 1 to 2 inches thick.
  • Keep mulch material away from the stem (trunk). The root flare (the base of the trunk where the largest roots begin to curve away) should be visible. Piling mulch against the trunk (aka "volcano mulching") can cause rot, circling roots, and lower oxygen levels for the roots.
  • For newly planted trees, mulch more than just the area above the root ball. The goal is to promote root development away from the tree. Roots expand outwards from a tree in a shallow root zone (not deep into the ground). Mulch wide, not deep.
  • Before replenishing mulch each season, some old mulch may need to be removed before adding a new layer. Adding new mulch over old in successive years is the same as applying too deep a layer all at once.

Types of Mulch

Arborist Chips

Fresh, natural, undyed wood chips (known as "arborist chips") are the best type of mulch to use. They provide the best combination of weed blocking, oxygen exchange, and endurance. Despite a common myth about "aging" your wood chips, arborist chips can be used as soon as they are created from freshly cut timber. Best of all, arborist chips are free. In most places, and in Avon Lake in particular, you never have to pay a penny for wood chips picked up at Avon Lake’s Service Department.

Dyed Commercial Wood Chips

Some people like the aesthetic of black, brown, or red dyed mulches. However, do some research and find out about the source of these wood chips. Sometimes scraps of treated or manufactured lumber products are used which can contain harmful contaminants like binding agents, glue, heavy metals, arsenic, and formaldehyde.

Other Organic Mulches

Other organic materials can be used as mulch, such as pine needles, hardwood and softwood bark, cocoa hulls, shredded leaves, and compost mixes.  Just may sure you don’t apply to thick.

Inorganic Mulches

Inorganic mulches, such as gravel, stone chips, river rock, and rubber, may be convenient since they don't decompose (and don't need to be reapplied), but they don't provide the soil benefits like organic mulches. In addition, stones and rocks can heat up and damage the tree if they are in contact.

Get Your Mulch for Free!

You should never pay for wood chips. They are plentiful and free. Here are some good sources:

City of Avon Lake

The city provides an endless supply of wood chips, available year-round behind the service garage at 750 Avon Belden Road. These are available to anyone who wants them. The downside: you need to have a way to transport them (pickup truck, bins, buckets). You also get exercise loading them yourself.  More Information

Chip Drop

If you can handle a very large amount of wood chips, you can sign up with Chip Drop and a local tree company will come and dump a truckload in your driveway. These will be the best fresh, natural chips you can get. But, you can't specify the quantity. You have to be willing to take as much as they need to unload, as much as a full truck (about 20 yards).

Tree Companies Working in Your Neighborhood

If you see some arborists trimming your neighbor's trees, walk over and ask if you can have the chips. In many cases, they would otherwise have to transport them somewhere and pay to unload them.

City of West Lake

Ok, not every option is free. The City of Westlake (in a joint venture with the City of Bay Village), provides their wood chips for a small price ($7/yard). The advantage is, they dump them into your truck for you. More Information

Earth Day

Earth Day occurs on April 22 each year as a special day for people to demonstrate support for environmental protection. You can show support by being more diligent on recycling, using less one-use plastic, and just getting out and enjoying nature – it’s good for you! This year, EARTHDAY.ORG is encouraging everyone to “Invest in Our Planet” ( You can extend your support by participating in Avon Lake Cleanup Day on May 20. For more information or to register your project, click HERE

Arbor Day

Arbor Day is on the last Friday in April – this year on the 28th. Arbor Day celebrates the boundless benefits trees bring to cities and towns such as cleaner air, increased property values, and healthier people. We again will hand out seedlings to all 5th graders (over 300!) at Troy Intermediate School and St. Joseph Parish School. In addition, 2023 marks Avon Lake’s 30th year as a Tree City USA. By participating in the Tree City USA program, Avon Lake is showing they are committed to maintaining and growing our tree cover so our residents can benefit from a healthy urban forest. You can support both Arbor Day and Earth Day by planting a tree, caring for a tree, or even donating a tree.

Proper Tree Planting

Trees provide a multitude of benefits to the residents of Avon Lake, and we enjoy seeing healthy mature trees in our yards and parks. This time of year, from March through early May, is an excellent time to plant most tree species – if you do it correctly.

Tree planting and immediate aftercare is often done incorrectly even by some professionals. Tested methodology exists (ANSI A300 Standards), but it is often not followed. Many times, when young trees are planted improperly, problems occur that can weaken or kill a tree possibly resulting in failure and property damage decades later. Here are steps to remember when you or your contractor plants a tree this spring:

  • Most trees should have a single trunk when planted. Shrubs and shrubby trees may have multiple stems. Prune any broken branches – nothing else!
  • Roots in containerized or balled and burlapped trees should have good structure – no circling roots (reject the tree), no roots growing toward the trunk (cut and remove these). These defects will eventually cause strangulation.  Remember – you often can’t see the roots because they’ve been covered by soil in the process of growing the trees. Dig down to find the ‘root collar’ where the trunk flares and the first roots appear.
  • Dig a hole 1.5 to 2 times the diameter of the root ball or container.  Don’t go deeper than the bottom of the container or root ball!!! You do not want the soil to settle. 
  • Our soil is generally rich in nutrients. You don’t need additives. Just break it up. A few stones and sticks in the hole won’t be a problem.
  • Set the tree in the center of the hole, back fill, and firm the soil around the roots. The planted tree should have the root flare exposed. Water the tree generously and add additional soil, if needed. This will close air pockets and ensure the tree roots are moist. (Don’t forget to keep the root ball or container moist before planting)
  • Mulch the tree to a depth not to exceed 2-3”. Mulch should not touch the tree bark. NO VOLCANO PILES OF MULCH AROUND THE TREE! Volcano piles invite new roots to strangle the trunk.
  • Water deeply once or twice a week if no significant rain occurs. Set a hose on trickle next to the tree for 30 minutes. You need to get the water down into the roots and not let it run off the surface.
  • Enjoy the tree for decades to come.

Ornamental Tree Added to Invasive Plant Species List

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has added all varieties of Callery pear, an ornamental tree -- including Bradford and the Cleveland Pears -- to the invasive plant species list due to their invasive qualities to choke out native species and likelihood to cause economic or environmental harm. While the spring blooms are lovely, the trees do not weather well over time. They become an aggressive spreader that can produce stiff thorns as long as 3 inches that are able to puncture vehicle tires, boots, and lawn equipment. As of January 2023, it is illegal to sell or plant these trees anywhere in the state.

Bradford Pear produces excellent firewood that is dense, heavy, and clean burning once it's dry, providing some benefit when the trees are removed.

This spring consider planting a new ornamental tree in your yard. Listed below are suggested replacements for the invasive Bradford Pear tree:

  • Crabapple
  • Kousa Dogwood
  • Magnolia
  • Serviceberry
  • Hornbeam
  • Redbud
  • Cornelian Cherry
  • Hydrangea Tree

If you want to plant a tree in the tree lawn, please contact the City’s Service Department.

Proper Draining of Pools/Hot Tubs

Water from swimming pools and hot tubs often contain high levels of chlorine. Discharging this water into yards, streams, drainage ways, ponds, etc., is harmful to fish and other aquatic life.

Chlorinated water from pools and hot tubs may be disposed of on the ground or irrigated on your property under the following circumstances:

  • Prior to disposing or irrigating the water, either shut off the chlorination system or stop adding chlorine, depending on your situation.
  • Hold the water in the pool or hot tub for at least two days to allow the chlorine to dissipate. Up to two full weeks may be necessary for the complete dissipation of the chlorine.
  • The pH (measure of acidity) of the dechlorinated water must be at least 6.5, but not greater than 8.5. The pH must be measured with a standard swimming pool water pH test kit.
  • Discharge or irrigate the water in an area where the water will not flow into a stream, drainageway or storm sewer.
  • Discharge or irrigate the water on your property and ensure that it does not flow off of your property.
  • Discharge or irrigate the water in a manner that will prevent nuisance conditions (such as creation of odors, and fly and mosquito breeding conditions). Nuisance conditions often occur when water is ponded for a prolonged period.