Highland Park Home Landscaping Tips

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Blowers vs. Rakes

Rakes don’t create noise pollution; they don’t erode soil; they don’t stir up mold spores; they don’t disturb your neighbors. Rakes can often do the job just as fast, or faster, than leaf blowers. WE LIKE RAKES!

English Ivy

English Ivy (Hedera helix) is an alien invasive vine which is on the “do not plant in New Jersey” list. Its roots penetrate bark on trees, shrubs, and even wood siding on a house. Damage from roots and the weight of the ivy can eventually kill a tree. WE SHOULD REMOVE IT FROM OUR TREES!

Don’t confuse evergreen English Ivy with Boston Ivy or native Virginia Creeper. Neither Boston Ivy nor Virginia Creeper are evergreen. They have roots that “cling” rather than penetrate. They are O.K.


For a healthy lawn, cut the grass no shorter than 3 inches, especially in hot dry weather, to prevent roots from being scorched. It’s good practice to leave grass clippings where they fall so that they will decompose and fertilize the soil.


Small wood chips, shredded bark, fallen leaves (especially if shredded) and pine needles all are fine organic mulch materials. Stone is not recommended: it absorbs and retains heat and “cooks” plants and their roots. Use no more than 2-3 inches of organic mulch around trees and in garden beds to retain moisture and regulate soil temperature. As the layer of organic mulch rots it adds amendments to soil.

Mulch Volcanoes

When mulch is mounded up high against a tree trunk, we call that a ‘mulch volcano’. It is bad practice to let mulch remain in contact with bark of trees and shrubs because excess moisture accumulates and the bark will rot, leaving plants vulnerable to disease, insects and invasive pests. THEY ARE BAD FOR OUR TREES!

Professional Arborists tell us to leave at least 3 inches between mulch and woody plants, and that mulch should never be more than 3 inches deep. Landscapers who create mulch volcanos may not realize the damage they cause. So here’s a “3-inch” plan: 3 inches between mulch and woody plants and no more than 3 inches deep. Please tell your landscaper to follow this plan. If you see mulch volcanos, knock them down or contact STAC . The trees will thank you.

Ribbons & Ties Around Tree Trunks

Signs, notices, balloons, etc. are often attached to trees by tying around trunks. Much of this material used doesn’t disintegrate as it ages (nylon, plastic, metal, etc.) and ends up strangling the tree. Please remove ties after they’re no longer needed.

Rotting Leaves

Gardeners’ “black gold.” Make piles of fallen leaves and let them rot for a season or more and the result will be humus, the best free soil amendment you can find. Or leave a 1-2” layer of fallen leaves around your shrubs all year round, and let them rot in place. It’s nature’s way of recycling.

String Trimmers

These power tools can bruise and cut bark. The resulting injuries lead to future problems. Keep those string trimmers away from tree trunks and woody shrubs.

Information compiled by the Highland Park Shade Tree Advisory Committee (STAC) 11/2013