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Island communities are another word for building a berm. They are essentially communities of plants, with the tree being the primary benefactor because it now has any drainage issues resolved. The roots are elevated above where the drainage problem is. The island should not be a mound 3' high with the tree in the center looking like an anthill.
It should not be built with heavy equipment or when the soil is wet. The soil must remain loose and friable for good drainage. An ideal soil should have 20-21% air space. Anything below 10% is compacted and the roots will not be able to breathe. Aeration is closely tied to the drainage test, if it drains quickly it has good aeration.
When trying to determine how large to make your island community, you need to ask yourself if you are planting an island community of plants or just one big tree. No matter what you are planting , it should be between 12-14" in depth after settling. Friable loose soil will settle 40% over time. Before settling depth should be a minimum of 24", with a slightly tapered 1-2% slope.
The island community can be any shape or size customized to fit your individual style and your yard and home. Plant your tree/trees, surround with compatible plants suitable to partial shade and create a natural symbiotic tree/garden relationship. Not only are you solving your drainage issues and benefitting your tree, you are mimicing what is found naturally in woodlands in nature.
You could include spring flowering bulbs, (plant in the fall) a large variety of perennials, blooming shrubs and annuals to extend and stagger your color seasons.
For optimum success, this all requires organic mulch. (no rocks, gravel, fabric, rubber)
We recommend mulching with a natural wood product that is shredded or chipped. Hardwood mulch is going to last longer than a softwood. Newly planted trees, shrubs, evergreens and perennials all benefit from this. We encourage mulch 5-6 feet all the way around the circumference of trees. This will assist the tree and discourage competition with grass.
This does two important things for the viability of the plant. One, it cools the soil and second, it stays moist and conserves moisture. It also controls weeds. Depth should be a minimum of 2” deep, but no more than 4”. Beware of the 'mulch volcano' and remember to not pile mulch against the tree trunk. We do not recommend rock as a mulch cover other than if planning a rock garden. We also do not endorse the practice of using plastic or fabric as a weed barrier under mulch. The mulch will serve the purpose of weed control, while still allowing 100% moisture penetration.
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