newbie~~~ Border under Tree for Grass Question

After moving into our house I re-did the entire front yard. We have a 20 year old Maple in the corner of the yard, beautiful tree and want to keep if for it shades the house most afternoons in the summer. I removed all grass from the base out to drip line ( where branches stop). I want to put down a defining border but the roots of the tree are so close to surface can't dig down much. I would like to be able to mow next to it and not edge every 2 weeks to maintain a clean looking lawn.
Any one have experience with this? I have asked around but no one really has answer out of just cut the roots in the way.. I am afraid this would /might kill the tree.
I want to put bark dust or color rock around base of tree so it will look nice after putting down weed paper.
thanks, J~
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If you are at the edge of the dripline, cutting roots should not significantly harm a healthy tree (assuming the branches are normally distributed--more useful indicator would be a foot of mulch zone diameter per inch of trunk diameter at standard height, or 4.5 feet above grade). There would be a lot of roots lost, but there would be a lot retained, as well. The tree might even benefit by concentrating more roots within the area which will now be mulched, thus reducing competition from grass.
I would skip the "weed paper" and just put down an adequate layer of mulch to stifle weeds. This is generally recommended to be 3 inches thick, more or less. Think about that--most mulch is placed at most an inch deep. 3 inches is as long as most people's fingers. Choose an organic mulch for maximum benefit instead of rocks. The wood chips, bark, or similar stuff you can buy at any garden center or nursery will decay and nourish the soil while invigorating the soil ecosystem and breaking down compaction. Rocks offer some benefit, but not these important ones.
Make sure to apply the mulch properly. The layer on the soil should be thick, but the trunk flares at the base of the tree should remain exposed to air. For more info, visit http://www.treesaregood.com/treecare/mulching.aspx
Good luck, Keith Babberney ISA Certified Arborist #TX-0236AT
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You are the first person who says safe to remove roots in the way. Here is the rest of my concern. On one side of tree is a public sidewalk and I get feeling previous owners of house did not water much for the entire yard was bad when we moved it. Started at top of hill and have been working down, now at base where tree is. Roots always seem to be just inches ( i.e. 2 or less) from surface so guessing looking for water.. we have added a bit of top soil and have used a tree water pick to water around drip last 3 years to encourage deep roots to save grass.
I am afraid of removing any roots I find and a few are rather large in size. I would be willing to remove one or two if really needed. the one idea I got was to just put the border where the roots are not, it might not be a true straight line but would allow me to keep a defined end and still keep most of the roots.
I know I am all over place on this one, sorry
J~
Treedweller wrote:

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