You may want to check with a college extension service that deals with
such questions, but I have been told that if you raise the dirt level at
the trunk of an oak tree you stand to kill the tree. I have seen this
happen locally, so I would make sure I knew what the story was before
Won't do it any good, certainly.
Unless the width of this is going to be very small, it's likely to also
cause distress from the additional ground/dirt over the established root
level. You can probably get away w/ something like a foot or so wide if
you also build a retaining wall on the inside as well as outer, but I'd
still advise against it.
Answer to opposite question: (Sorry) In 1956, after my father died,
some gardener told my mother there was too much dirt around our oak
tree BELOW the surface of the lawn. And she should pay him to dig a
doughnut around the tree, about 4 or 6 feet total diameter, 14 or 18"
deep. (I don't think I ever knew what was supposed to happen if she
didn't.) I was 9 and couldn't do the job, I guess (though it would
have been good for me to try.)
My mother had never heard of such a thing, and 50 years later, I don't
think I've everf seen another tree like that anywhere else, and she
was afraid she was being cheated.
But she did it. 50 years later, the hole is still there, but
smaller because the tree trunk is bigger and leaves must have follen
into the hole. and the oak tree is still doing great. It's in front
of all the windows on the second floor (two bedrooms) and taller than
the pitched roof iirc.
Of course it's an oak tree and theyr'e supposed to live a long time.
Was she cheated?
Here is a picture of the tree from above
Enter 41.019681,-80.341701 in google maps search
field at https://maps.google.com/
It's the 2nd house left of the house with the white roof and the
bright white driveway. It's the house with the big tree in the front
Wow, now the tree reaches almost to the sidewalk that parallels the
street. And its over the front half of the house. No street view
on this street.
Thanks. So it doesn't mean a thing that my triee is maybe 83 years
old. So I still wonder, Was there any point in digging that hole
ar0ound the tree?
BTW, the 329+ year tree is showing its age, with empty sections. My
tree is as hearty as a young woman, with a complete canopy with no
holes, from above, and last time I was there about 15 years ago, from
Depending on variety, it may still be just a youngster. Average for
undisturbed white oak is 300 yr or so w/ maximums approaching 600.
Northern red oaks, post oak, chestnut oak are generally around 400 yr
for max longevity and many of the other typically slightly faster
growing are closer to 200 max. There are something approaching 200
species of oaks in North America alone, so while all are relatively
long-lived, it's hard to say much more about any one, particularly not
knowing what variety it might be. Guessing from the location it might
be a pin oak, that's one of the shorter, 200 max kinda' guys.
Would have to know/see what it actually was like before, but I seriously
doubt it had any real effect one way or the other at that time and
location of the trench wrt the tree.
It looked fine. That's t he big reason my mother was suspicious.
Now that this is on my mind, I'm going to have to keep my eye out for
tree people (old tree people who might go back to those days) and
asking them.) who might know if this was a common remedy. Even if it
doesn't do anything. After all, there were lots of doctors who used
bleeding and leeches etc. .who were sincerely trying to help even if
those things don't.
Wait a second Oren!. I just noticed your answer to the OP in this
&Note fungus daNote fungus danger zone:
&Oaks prefer to drain water away. Keeping the trunk soaked (flower
&from frequent water is not good for the tree. Oaks I'm familiar with
&prefer good drainage, even allowed to dry out near the crown of the
&trunk. Some oaks have roots above ground also.Many oaks do best in
I thought this was also an answer to my post, and then I saw that the
same person, you, had replied to my post. Maybe there were signs
of too much water that my mother and I didnt' notice, or maybe not but
the gardener had seen such signs in another tree not too far way.
Maybe he was overdoing it -- it didn't have to be that deep -- but
this was 1956 and maybe he was thinking too much is safer than too
I know this post is late. I would have emailed you too but I see your
My wife built a 4" high flower bed around the old crabapple tree.
Used concrete blocks.
Wasn't any bark to speak of that low on the tree.
But the flowers didn't do well, and after about 5 years the tree roots
started growing up, making the blocks uneven and askew.
We didn't try it with any other trees after that.
That's all I know.
Whenever I've read articles about planting trees, it is always stressed
that they be planted at same soil level as in the pot. Many articles
about landscaping mention that soil and mulch should not contact the
trunk, as it encourages disease and insect infestation. If I had a
large oak and enough space (and the right climate), I'd plant
rhododendrons and azaleas...I did that when I lived in Florida and they
were gorgeous. Rho. and az. are also good place to put leaves that are
shed....they make good mulch for acid loving plants.
The volcano mulch pile is the latest trend here in NJ.
Twenty years ago, maybe even ten years ago, you never
saw it. But with all the city folks moving here and the
clueless landscapers, now it's a common occurence.
Actually, maybe the landscapers aren't that clueless.
They get to sell more mulch that way and if the tree dies
in 10 years, they get paid to take care of that too.
Another driving factor for the mulch piles are lazy builders
and landscapers. I've seen new construction where instead
of digging a full hole, they dig half a hole, set the tree with
half or a third of the root ball above the soil, then cover it
with a mulch volcano.
It is never a good idea to raise the soil level around an established
tree. It will cause harm to the tree.
A smarter approach is to remove a circle of grass around the tree, put
down landscape cloth and a layer of mulch (don't pile the mulch
against the trunk). Edge the mulch bed with plastic or brick edging,
then arrange a few pots on the mulch around the tree. Choose plants
that will do well in the lower light levels underneath the tree's
canopy. An alternate approach is to dig a few holes in the ground
through the landscape cloth and place pots into the holes. But
frankly, just having the pots on the surface is less work, especially
since the pots can be shifted easily to show off a pot whose plant is
doing especially well.
This approach won't harm the tree, and you won't have tree roots
intruding on the ornamental plants.
The image shows a doughnut built around the tree.
A dry well in the middle with drainage under the filled part.
I think the dry well part will need frequent cleaning out and
tree roots will still grow up through the rocks into the soil.
Still little light under a tree and not a good idea.
There's no guarantee of success even with this level of effort. This
method was used in a small development in my area, where the city
permitted the developer to grade the plat and build houses on the
site, provided they protected the existing trees. They used this
method, but the trees died within a decade anyway.
Ironically, the front yards of several of the homes still have the dry
wells in place, even though there's nothing inside. Dunno why they
don't just dump some dirt in, sod over it, and be done with it.
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