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.
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)
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.
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
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.
Pardon my spam deterrent; send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheers, Steve Henning in Reading, PA USA
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.
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.............
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.
ISA Certified Arborist #TX-236
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!
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