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Since before we moved in to our house a year ago, the tree in the front yard has had lots of dead branches. In addition bark is missing at the bottom of the tree.

We cleared 100+ dafodil bulbs that were growing around the base of the tree (along with other weeds) and removed dirt and a thick layer of old mulch piled 6-12 inches above the root spread.

We would like to keep the tree from dying. Would it be helpful to cut back the dead branches? Are there any soil amendments or anything else we can do to help the tree survive? What should we put around the base of the tree (e.g. mulch)?

Tree

Damaged base of tree

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    I'm not clear why you appear to think clearing out the daffs is a good thing - if anything, the disturbance to the tree's roots from doing that is likely a net negative. "Simply" changing the soil level tends to kill trees. – Ecnerwal Aug 24 '16 at 13:14
  • The thought was the daffodils may be taking water away from the tree. They were so close together that only a few bloomed this past spring. So far we haven't noticed the tree getting worse since taking them out and removing the mulch, but it has only been 2-3 months. – kleinejenn Aug 25 '16 at 23:11
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Dead branches on trees are best being removed, especially when the trees are close to a building, because they may, at some point, break and fall and cause damage.

I cannot see an area of missing bark in your pictures, although to the right at the base in the second picture, there is less ridged bark - this may be where the mulch you removed was piled against the trunk, but it doesn't seem to be missing bark as such. Although some mulch won't do the tree any harm, it's important that you don't allow any mulch to cover the base of the tree trunk. You may want to call an arborist to remove the dead branches and to inspect the tree to assess its health and whether or not it needs more significant cutting back from a safety point of view.

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