I have a big oak tree in my backyard. The lawn(bermuda) around the tree is
struggling though I have been making extra effeort on that area in the last
years. So I am having this idea of get rid of the grass abound the tree root
and create a raised bed there to plant some shade-like plants. After some
internet search, I found that it is not recommended because it may do harm
to the tree. It is suggested just put mulch lightly around the tree root.
But that looks a little dull and I really want to make it nice-looking. Any
good suggestions? Thanks.
Good day Jay. How big will this bed be? I'm assuming that this bed will be
of good size. If you can keep this bed less than 3 inches deep, you
*should* be able to get away with it. (*Your mileage may vary). Also see
if you can limit the length of the bed to minimize the covering of the
root zone. And lastly, keep the new top soil and multch away from the
I've been called to deal with this issue once.The tree was a large 80+
foot cedar and the lawn was just gone. I overlayed 1 to 3 inchs of top
soil around the base of the tree. I graded the soil in small mounds that
were streched out in teardrop shapes in a large circle around the tree's
base. This bed was ten feet in length and about 30 feet in
circumference?... Can't remember now. Just remember it was large. I used 4
maybe 5 yards of soil. Customer had me plant native plant. Wild bleeding
hearts, trillium, one goats beard, deer ferns and wild ginger. It really
fires off well in the spring but by summer I'm laying a yard or two of
finely ground fir bark. I lay it right over the bleeding hearts and
trilliums that have faded to the ground. Easy clean up 80)
Yard Works Gardening Co.
The problem with mulch (or any other organic material including soil)
around the trunk is that the tree may girdle itself by running a root
runner around it's own trunk. That can be fatal.
So, you can put a raised bed around the tree if you include a
protective ring in the middle that keeps the mulch/soil off the tree
If it is a large oak as you describe there is no problem with burying
the roots near the trunk, staying away from the trunk as above, just
don't bury the ones at the drip line as they are the nutrient seeking
roots and need to be near the surface.
:) I have a big oak tree in my backyard. The lawn(bermuda) around the tree is
:) struggling though I have been making extra effeort on that area in the last
:) years. So I am having this idea of get rid of the grass abound the tree root
:) and create a raised bed there to plant some shade-like plants. After some
:) internet search, I found that it is not recommended because it may do harm
:) to the tree. It is suggested just put mulch lightly around the tree root.
:) But that looks a little dull and I really want to make it nice-looking. Any
:) good suggestions? Thanks.
It's easy enough to lay out a border then use ground covers like Asian
Jasmine, English Ivy or Mondo grass assuming it will grow where you are
at. Here is a couple of pics of Ivy and mondo grass.
If this is a native oak (growing naturally, not planted) and you
are in the western U.S., you can kill the tree by gardening under
First of all, the tree should not be watered at all in the summer.
In the winter, you can give it one or two soakings BUT ONLY IF
there is a draught. Otherwise, native western oaks should be
allowed to go dry except for winter rains.
The best mulch for a western oak is the leaves it drops. Other
leaves can be added. Don't pack them down. To keep them in place,
you can sprinkle them very lightly with water. Eventually, the
leafs will decompose into leafmold. Western oaks thrive on this.
It keeps the soil cool in the summer and helps retain winter
moisture through the year.
If you must really plant under the tree, start with very small
plants that don't need much digging when you plant them. These
should be natives that will survive with a lack of summer water.
Watering around a naturally growing western oak will cause the tree
to rot and die. Also, the plants should be able to thrive without
added nutrients. Fertilizers (especially high-nitrogen) will also
kill western oaks.
However, if the tree was planted from a nursery container, it
should be able to withstand summer water and some fertilizer. It
should still be mulched with its own leaves. The soil within its
drip zone (the area under its branches) should be disturbed only
infrequently and not more than the top 6 inches. Plants around
such a tree should be suitable for the tree's environment: tall
enough to grow through the mulch, need only a little water in
summer, need only light feeding.
You can indeed have a lawn up to the trunk of a planted western
oak, but you need a grass that will do well in shade and part-shade
(not Bermuda). A lawn will substitute for mulch.
The major difference between a native oak and a planted oak is that
the former has a taproot while the latter generally has had the
taproot cut while being moved from a seedling container into a
larger container. Western oaks growing naturally require that
their natural environment prevail: lean soil and dry summers. This
is not true for planted oaks whose taproots were removed while
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
It is not true for many of the European oaks even when the taproot
is NOT cut. There is no problem gardening under them, except for
the fact that they cut out the rain and light. Generally, however,
there is little point in growing much except (mediocre) lawn and
deep woodland plants (including cyclamen) under trees that cast a
I should be surprised if the same were not true of SOME American
oaks, because their natural habitat varies so widely. Which does
certainly not argue against your point with regard to the drought
adapted ones, and probably some of the others.
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