Spring is finally here and both home and commercial properties are starting to come alive. You can see daffodils blooming, grass growing and trees showing signs of life with new growth on every branch. Something that you also start to see this time of year is mulch in flower beds and around the bases of trees. Mulch is a material, such as decaying leaves, bark, or compost, that is spread around or over a plant or tree to enrich or insulate the soil. This added nutrient is essential to assist in the growing process. However, over mulching is a serious and common problem through Northern Virginia; especially around the base of trees. Have you walked through your neighborhood or around your office complex only to see mulch piled up around the base of trees, entirely covering the roots? This is known as a mulch volcano and what this is doing is chocking the life out of the tree. When you walk through the woods, you can see the root flare as the soil and base of the tree meet. The tree is growing, and does not have piles of compost surrounding the roots. The roots of the tree take nutrients and chemicals out of the soil and use them to produce what they need for the tree's growth, development, and repair. With a mulch volcano, this process is interrupted at the very least and can cause “suffocation” of the living tree. Sometimes you still end up with trees that have piles of mulch around them. If over-mulching has been going on for a long time; the roots begin to grow in this mulch layer and it becomes more difficult over time to get these piles down.