The job of keeping trees healthy in the cemetery

The job of keeping trees healthy in the cemetery

Craig Goldsmid, fieldworker for Sacred Heart Cemetery in Vineland, and Sue Fenili, a member of the city’s Environmental Commission, show off proper mulching technique around one of the 72 acre-cemetery’s trees.
Photo by Peter G. Sánchez

VINELAND — A helpful tip for landscapers in South Jersey: if you want to learn how to properly mulch around a tree, visit Sacred Heart Cemetery here on Walnut Avenue, and ask for Scott Omahne.

Or his brother, Mark Omahne. Or Bud Plexico. Or Craig Goldsmid. Basically, any of the groundskeeping crew overseeing the 72 acres of property.

Sue Fenili, a member of the City of Vineland’s Environmental Commission, is trying to spread the word (or dirt) on proper mulching technique, after visiting the cemetery a few weeks ago,

“My parents, grandparents and in-laws are buried at Sacred Heart,” she said. After being impressed with the landscaping, she said she knew she needed “to talk to someone,” and she stopped into the cemetery’s main office.

As luck would have it, the diocesan director of cemeteries, Marianne Linka, was there.

“I told them they were doing everything right,” Fenili said.

Soon after, she sent off a letter to Cumberland County’s landscapers, writing that if they needed mulching help, “Sacred Heart Cemetery … is already doing it right. They welcome you to visit.”

Proper mulching around a tree, New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection-Division of Parks and Forestry says, is starting 6 inches from the tree trunk at ground level, and mulching outward to the edge of the dripline, to a maximum depth of 2-4 inches. Keep a 2-4 inch layer around, they recommend, but no mulch should be in contact with the base of the tree.

The problem Fenili sees, though, is that many trees commonly have what is known as “mulch volcanoes,” bunched up around the base of the bark. This can cause the bark to become soft, and become prone to fungus, rodents and insects, which decrease a tree’s life-span.

Proper mulching helps the soil hold water for the tree’s roots; helps prevent the soil from washing away; and helps reduce damage from drought and pests, among other things.

“We wanted to make sure we didn’t lose any” trees, said Omahne, foreman for Sacred Heart’s grounds, who says that in the past two years, 15 trees have been planted.

Linka says the mulching is just another way the cemetery shows that its staff are “stewards of the earth, protecting God’s gifts.”

“Scott and his crew don’t take this job lightly. This is sacred ground. We do it for the families and to honor those whose mortal remains are laid to rest here.”

To contact Sacred Heart Cemetery and arrange a visit, call 856-691-1290.

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