Beautifying nature is always a fun and exciting idea, especially when wanting to make it a focal point for your home. Yet finding the balance between aesthetics and health can be a challenge. When it comes to landscaping around your trees, our experts have all the tips for improving the look of your yard while prioritizing your trees’ health! It may be tempting to jump into a new yard project as spring approaches, but first, let’s take some time to learn the best landscaping practices to prevent damage to your trees.
The Biggest Considerations for Landscaping Around Trees
Landscaping around trees: should you do it? Well, yes and no. There are a variety of factors to consider before you take action. You must consider the functionality of your yard, the health of the tree, and overall appearance. Luckily, our arborists are here to share their secrets to achieving beautiful landscaping that keeps your trees healthy! Perhaps the most important thing to consider while working around the base of a tree is the root system.
The Critical Root Zone
When landscaping around trees, the #1 thing you need to watch out for is your tree’s roots. The critical root zone (CRZ) is your tree’s life system. By hacking or cutting through these crucial “veins,” you risk severe tree damage, root rot, and eventual tree mortality.
Here’s an easy trick: To find the CRZ, look out for the tree’s drip line.
You can do this by envisioning your shade tree like it’s an umbrella – if it were to rain, where would the rain go? It would go where the edges of the canopy reach out. Underneath this umbrella is the caution zone. Know the area. Protect the area.
Tree Care Tip #1: If you’re doing a small project and find yourself on a tree root, just move a couple of inches to either side and you should be fine.
Now, you may be thinking, “Oh, but my builder, outdoor lighting guy, cable TV guy, they did work under that line. They all said it’s fine.”
Looking out for your trees may not be their number one priority, but it’s ours. As tree experts, we’re here to speak for the trees. They’ve been with us for a long time, and they deserve the best. So, what should you do when landscaping around trees?
The Do’s and Dont’s of Landscaping Around Trees
Here’s a brief overview of “Do’s and Don’ts” to remember when implementing your next landscape idea:
- Plant flowers or small shrubs around the tree. If you’re planting under a shade tree, make sure you use shade-tolerant flowers!
- Be extremely watchful of tree roots!
- Mimic the forest floor. Help your tree thrive by striving for a more natural approach!
- Plant trees far away from retaining walls.
- Thinly spread mulch in a ring several feet from the tree’s base.
- When in doubt, contact your Certified Arborist
- Tackle a big landscape project (hardscaping, patios, landscape lighting, etc.) without contacting your Certified Arborist.
- Cut tree roots.
- Put landscape fabric or weed mats around the tree.
- Add rocks around trees (they retain heat that can damage surface roots).
- Plant trees in heavy foot traffic areas. This leads to compact soil.
- Pile up mulch or wood chips around the base of the tree trunk.
- Excavate or change the grade.
- Build a raised garden bed around a tree.
Tree Care Tip #2: Don’t see it done in nature? Don’t add it!
Avoid These Common Tree Landscaping Hazards
In order to minimize damage to your trees, avoid the following:
- Weed mats
- Landscaping around trees with rocks
- Mulch volcanoes
- Fill dirt (normally contains sand and rocks)
- Mowing near roots or near the trunk (those wounds can lead to diseases!)
- Adding soil on top of turf
- Landscaping fabric
Landscape Fabric is a Big No!
Many people make the mistake of thinking, “Yes, it’s ok to put landscape fabric around trees – we need to prevent weeds!” But what if we told you that’s actually not the case?
In fact, not only are weeds okay around trees, but our Certified Arborists actively work to recreate the forest floor around the trees. Trees were conditioned to grow on the natural forest floor. And what do forests have? Not artificial landscape fabric or weed barriers; they have weeds, sticks, leaves, and animals.
Together we can find the perfect balance of maintaining a natural forest-like environment for your trees without having your yard look as wild as a jungle (unless that’s what you want!)
Common Tree Landscaping that Works in the Washington, DC Area
Landscaping practices that work best for one region may not be ideal for another. Here in the DC metropolitan area, most yards have limited space and our trees are subjected to urban stressors. There are a few ways you can show your yard some extra TLC even in small yards!
Urban areas are subject to heavier foot traffic, construction damage, and have limited root zones. This is a recipe for tightly compacted soil with little room for water, air, and nutrients to pass through. Soil decompaction is a great solution to loosen up the soil around your tree to allow the roots to breathe! Another common issue in urban areas is the lack of available nutrients in soil. In order to keep your tree healthy through all seasons, we recommend our multi-vitamin bio-stimulants that nourish the surrounding soil with beneficial humic acids. Having regular applications of natural fertilizers will boost the overall health and resilience of your tree! Do you have a large tree in a little yard that may need help? Learn more about caring for big trees in small spaces.
It can be difficult to know what works best for your specific tree and landscape needs, so we are here to help!
Achieve Your Dream Landscape Design with a Certified Arborist
Trees are truly priceless; they add aesthetic, sentimental, environmental, and property value to any home. Taking care of them and using protective measures will save you time and money in the future, and Mother Nature will thank you for it!
Here’s the bottom line: Any work will damage the tree, but less damage will be done if you contact us in advance.
- Big planting project? Our tree experts are equipped with tools to locate roots without damaging them.
- Cutting a root? Our root pruning technique will minimize the damage done to your tree.
- Running cable line, patio, walkway, driveway, either over or through roots? Our tree experts have techniques, safe and specialized to your specific tree species, location, and project.
- Want grass up to the tree? Arborists can mulch beneath the grade and give the tree the important organic matter it needs to thrive.
You can reserve an appointment with one of our Certified Arborists by calling us at 703-573-3029 or by using our online system. With a bit of help, you can safely landscape around your trees, protect your trees, and achieve your dream landscape design.
Want to protect the rest of your lawn too?
Enroll in our new B.E.S.T Lawn Program today!