Please help me help my maple - a roots/soil/mulch question
I have a large maple (not sure what kind) that was planted when my house was built, about 14 years ago. Some years back, we put a layer of landscape fabric down under the tree, to keep the weeds down. I have recently decided that was a bad move and just removed the majority of it (very difficult to do after years of mulch have built up over it and roots have grown through it.) We are also trying to pull the dirt and mulch back from the trunk of the tree, which is also challenging with all the roots.
Once we got the soil exposed, I dug up some soil for samples and am awaiting the results. Lots of small roots have been exposed in the process of removing the fabric and clearing the trunk. For the ones that are further away from the tree, I buried them in the existing dirt, to which I had added a bit of composted manure. I covered it all with a thin layer of mulch. I don't know what to do for the ones closer to the trunk, as I don't want more dirt/mulch against the trunk (there is already too much, because it was nearly impossible to remove).
I have a couple of questions...Should I be concerned about the smaller exposed roots by the trunk? I know the larger ones, i.e., the skirt, are supposed to be exposed. But what about this network of small roots, that I assume will die off or dry out? How important are those to the health of the tree? Should they be covered, even though they are close to the trunk?
I know I already damaged others of this kind, when I removed the fabric. I'm just concerned I may hurt the tree, when I was really trying to help it by removing the fabric and adding the compost and getting the soil test. It hasn't been looking as healthy the last couple of years and I'm trying to restore it.
Hopefully, the photo below shows what I'm trying to describe.