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Planting Around Trees

You want to plant around a tree as your grass won't grow. Every time you try to mow, you are tripping over the roots above the ground. Think about creating a circular bed around the tree. The size of the circle will depend on how big of a planting area you want. A good size is four to five feet out from the trunk of the tree. Your first step, attacking those nasty weeds. There are a number of good weed killers out in the market today. You can try and pull the weeds by hand. Most of the time you won't get the bottom roots and shoots - they will be back! One word of advice, don't put the weed killer down until you have a plan of what you want to plant. Time to go to the nursery to get some ideas about what to put around the tree. Don't be overwhelmed!

Herbee Recommends These Options

  • Annual or perennial flowers
  • Dwarf shrubs -
  • Combination of flowers and shrubs
Another possibility is putting a ground cover around the tree. You will need a shade ground cover. Ajuga is great for shade and has tiny pink flowers. Some people like the idea of ivy. One problem with ivy is it spreads like wild fire. It will grow up your tree, eventually chocking the life out of it. If you use ivy, keep it trimmed. There are many safe chemicals to use today on ivy.

Plants Around Tree
Ivy On Tree

Heading back to the nursey, find out about the top soil you will need. Herbee recommends 4 to 6 inches of top soil around the tree. Most nurseries will load the top soil with a bobcat. The bobcat has a bucket to dump the soil into a truck. Buckets come in a variety of sizes. Most buckets dump 1 cubic yard. Four inches of top soil would be about one and a half scoops. Prices vary in different parts of the country and world. The price can range from $15.00 - $25.00 a scoop. Look for good quality top soil. What is a good mixture of soil? A good combination is dirt, sand, and saw dust. There usually is a delivery fee. If you own a truck you could pick it up but it will be a lot more work for you.

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Question From Jeanneen Higgins, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

I need to know if it is okay to plant on top of the roots of an oak tree and if so, how do I do it? I need step-by step instructions.

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Hi Jeanneen,

Herbee here. Thank you for asking the question on the steps to plant around an oak tree with exposed roots.

This is a good question and one many people have to deal with. You will want to make a raised bed around the tree. Here are some steps involved.

  1. Decide how big you want the raised bed to be.
  2. You will need to prep the area first by killing off any grass or weeds. There are many products available today that won't harm the roots. Wait a few days or up to a week. Rake and level the area out the best you can.
  3. Bring in anywhere from four to eight inches of good quality top soil. The best type of top soil if possible is a combination of black dirt, saw dust, and sand. If this isn't available, look for a good quality top soil at a local nursery.
  4. Spread the top soil around the tree, but don't put the top soil up against the trunk.
  5. You will need to consider shade plants and flowers. I recommend doing dwarf shrubs as their root systems aren't too deep. Consider perennial and or annual flowers.
  6. Add some organic mushroom compost to the soil. You can design the bed with thought of some features as a series of rocks, a bird bath and feeder, or other outdoor accents.
  7. Make sure you get on a good watering schedule and add some mulch, pine straw, or even decorative rocks as a border.
Raised beds around trees are common and create an enhancement to those eye sore roots above the ground.

Some shade perennials:

  1. Foxglove
  2. Bee Balm
  3. Primrose
  4. Bleeding Hearts
  5. Bell Flowers
These are just a few. I hope this helps and let us know if you need some more suggestions. Thanks again for asking the question, and the best of luck to you. Feel free to ask anytime.

Once you have picked out your shrubs or flowers and ordered your top soil, you are ready to start. Put the weed killer down, if you need one. Wait a week before you have the top soil delivered. Ask the delivery man to dump the top soil as close to the tree as he can. It will be easier on your back!

Spread the top soil evenly around the tree. Position your plants or flowers the way you want them. Remember, a good design has an odd number. Add some organic mushroom compost with the soil. Finish the bed off with mulch or pine straw. Planting around a tree can add so much to your outdoors. Don't let those roots stick out anymore. A good landscape project for the spring or fall months.

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