Speaking of mulching...

I have some trees with very prominent roots, which are getting battered by the folks who mow the lawn. I know, from reading here that I can't just pile mulch or dirt on top of them, but can I build up the area between them a bit to lessen the impact of the mowers? These areas seem to have become more sunken over the years.
Thanks,
--
Jean B.

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Wait a minute -- why not just run the mower over the roots and teach them a lesson about staying underground?
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Hi Jean,
My experience has been it's a perpetual battle. Trees such as silver maple and red oak seem to love to surface large buttressing roots everywhere. Unless the surfacing is the result of a drastic and quick loss of topsoil (through flooding, for example) the most you can do is add a couple of inches of fluffy compost and overseed, or plant in groundcover so that the turf guys won't mow there.
--
David J. Bockman, Fairfax, VA (USDA Hardiness Zone 7)
email: snipped-for-privacy@beyondgardening.com
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David Bockman wrote:

Thanks, David. My ultimate plan is to have ground cover around these trees. I did start that around a tree that they seemed not to be mowing there, and it got whacked! I need to set up more no-mow zones, I think.
--
Jean B.

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Jean B. wrote:

Kill the grass and then apply a thin layer of mulch.
--

Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8
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Travis wrote:

That may end up happening. I don't like using herbicides though.
--
Jean B.

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When people speak of smothering trees by adding soil around the base, that's really because soil is dense and compact and doesn't allow for much oxygen exchange, etc. Mulch does not create this problem, in the sense that 3 inches of mulch will be tolerated much better than 3 inches of soil. I would kill the grass around the trees with rising roots, and, if you want a uniform look, add 3 inches of mulch around the base, with less, or none over the protruding roots, and correspondingly more in the deepest spots between them.

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There is mulch and there is mulch. A long lasting loose mulch will allow air and water to circulate, keep the roots cool, and prevent weeds from growing, all attributes of a good mulch. On the other hand, a bad mulch will mat down and block air and water flow. Some good mulches are bark (especially bark nuggets), stones in the shade (not in the sun), and other long lasting organic materials. Poor mulches are things that degrade such as sawdust, grass clippings, and other materials that degrade and form a slime layer.
--
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Cheers, Steve Henning in Reading, PA USA
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wrote:

Generally good advice unless you happen to live in the Southwest and are planting water efficient native gardens, which are all the rage theses days,
Regards, Tom
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Tom Jaszewski wrote:

Well, I (OP) live in Massachusetts. I don't much like the look of little rocks around trees....
--
Jean B.

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Ok: coarse mulch to build up, and LARGE rocks to discourage traffic?
--
Fritz Oppliger

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Fritz Oppliger wrote:

Yes, I have been wanting large rocks for various locations for quite a while now. Easier said than done though. Either I have to buy them (which is very expensive), or I have to get up the nerve to ask at building sites--and then figure out how to trasnport them.
--
Jean B.

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Stephen Henning wrote:

Well, I don't consider those things to be mulch--except for leaving grass clippings on the ground. I tend to use pine bark mulch. If my lawn folks ever get in gear, they are supposed to be bringing some very dark, organic mulch.............
--
Jean B.

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I agree you should mulch the area to 3" deep. This is not the same as adding soil, which should be avoided. The critical factor is that the mulch does not cover the primary trunk flares at the base of the tree. This part of the tree needs to be able to breathe and dry out between waterings. If the flares are already buried, carefully excavate the excess soil until you expose them. If this results in a large pit or bowl around the tree, you may need to add a trench running outward from the downhill side of the hole (be careful not to cut any roots larger than, say 2" in diameter) and line it with gravel and maybe PVC pipe to allow for drainage. The do your best to mulch without re-burying the flares.
Good luck, Keith Babberney ISA Certified Arborist #TX-236
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wrote:

I'd simply mulch with coarse wood chips up to the level required. And don't water there.
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Fritz Oppliger

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Treedweller wrote:

The area around this tree has never been built up with mulch or anything else--at least that it the way it appears to me. (I have lived here for about six years.) Now I have a clue as to how to accomplish this. Thanks!
--
Jean B.

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