Gardening question: should I remove lawn from around a young tree?
March 7, 2017 2:39 AM   Subscribe

After much lobbying, the council has planted some trees on the London housing estate where I live. Three years on, some are doing well, others less so. Some have been planted in grass-covered areas, and the grass has regrown up to the trunks. Could this be a major factor in why they're not growing very well? Is it likely to make much of a difference if I remove the grass around the base of the tree? Do I risk damaging the roots if I do?
posted by snarfois to Science & Nature (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If someone is cutting the grass and using a strimmer to trim around the trees, they may be stripping the bark at ground level which I think would hamper the tree's growth a lot. Can you get up close and check?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:06 AM on March 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: It wouldn't hurt. If you up for a civic beautification project I would take up the turn from around each tree (only go a few cm's down as long as you're not too deep it won't hurt the tree) and flip it over. Cover the turned over sod with a manure mulch (or mushroom compost if you can't find manure) and then cover that with some bark mulch. The nutrients of the mulches will slowly leach into the ground and reach the roots thereby helping the tree grow better.

I always have a base of clear earth around the base of my fruit trees, but then again I am actively mulching them as well, so I see it more as minor weeding than actual turf removal.
posted by koolkat at 3:09 AM on March 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, get rid of the grass. In addition to EndsofIntervention's point about mower and string-trimmer accidents, the trees may be affected by turf treatments applied to the grass. The grass is also sucking up most of the nutrients in the soil close to the tree and it may be pumping out growth inhibitors to discourage other plants. That's not such a big deal for established trees with well-developed root systems, but it's hard on young trees. Mulch around the trees in a circle about the same size as the widest part of the tree canopy.
posted by xylothek at 4:07 AM on March 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

However, don't mulch so deeply that mulch is leaning against the tree-trunk itself, it invites fungi and voles and so forth, especially in damp climates.
posted by clew at 11:42 AM on March 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Do not mulch above the root flare, this invites not just fungus but also in young trees encourages girdling roots which can damage the development of the tree. Lots of times in newer developments you'll see tons of young trees with mulch a foot up the stem. They rarely do well.
posted by Ferreous at 12:12 PM on March 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also if the trees do have problems with girdling roots a certified arborist can apply corrective treatment. Hell if you can I'd try and call out an arborist, lots of places will do free evaluations.
posted by Ferreous at 12:17 PM on March 7, 2017

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