What can I do with exposed tree roots in my lawn? (3 Simple Solutions)

What can I do with exposed tree roots in my lawn? (3 Simple Solutions)

What can I do with exposed tree roots in my lawn? (3 Simple Solutions)

Look, trees add a lot of value to your home, and with great reason too! 

But sometimes, they get a little too big for their britches and begin to cause issues in your landscape.

One of the common issues trees cause is exposing themselves in your lawn. 

So, what can you do when your tree’s roots are causing issues in the landscape?

Well, that is exactly what we are going to cover today. 

Below you will find 3 simple solutions and other landscaping tips you need to know about dealing with trees with exposed roots in the lawn. 

Roots exposed in lawn

Dealing With Tree Roots in Lawn

So, what can I do with tree roots that are sitting near the surface? Well, a few simple solutions come to mind. 

But before you go covering up the roots, or cutting them out of the lawn, we need to understand how tree roots work. So that we don’t injure the tree and cause problems for ourselves down the road. 

Why do tree roots stick toward the surface?

It’s simple, like the grass on your lawn, the roots of trees need access to oxygen. That is why a majority of them sit near the surface within the top 4-15 inches of soil

Therefore, if you cover them with too much soil in an attempt to reclaim your lawn, you may end up killing them anyway and wind up with a dead tree on your hands.Tree roots exposed in lawn

Covering Up Exposed Tree Roots Near Tree

Ok, so if you want to cover up tree roots without harming the tree, there are 2 solutions. 

Solution #1: Covering Tree Roots With Soil and Seed

“Can I just cover the tree roots with a layer of soil and apply seed?”

Yes, well sort of but it's not the best solution. 

Remember that tree roots near the surface are there because they need oxygen to live. 

So it is safe to add a thin layer of dirt about a half-inch to an inch of soil over the roots and seed the lawn. 

However, if you continue to ride your lawn mower over the roots time and time again inevitably the tree roots will eventually be exposed again. So it’s not a long-term solution

Therefore solution #2 is generally recommended.

Solution #2: Turn the Area Into a Mulched Bed

Generally, the best solution is to remove the sod from around the tree roots and create a mulched garden bed

This is crazy but, It’s really that simple!

Best of all you can plant ground covers and perennials that not only look great in the lawn but can also feed local pollinators

It’s truly a win, win, win solution. You get a beautiful garden bed, the tree remains unharmed, and you will be helping your local ecosystem by planting food for beneficial critters. 

Need help measuring how much mulch you need? Check this guide out and learn to mulch like a pro!

REMEMBER! Mulch volcanos can kill trees! Do not stack mulch up onto the trunk of the tree, this could lead to a tree that will slowly die from the ground up. 

Mulched trees can hid their exposed roots safley

Should I cut exposed roots in the lawn?

Well, it depends! 

While you may be able to remove some roots without major cause for concern, there are a few things to be mindful of. As with pruning your tree branches above, you need to follow proper root-cutting techniques to keep your tree healthy. 

For example, in some tree species, the roots closest to the surface may be stabilizing the tree. And if you remove too many, you may be leading to the structural degradation of the tree

Further, some roots may be critical to the tree's ability to uptake water and nutrients. 

Solution #3 Removing Tree Roots From A Living Tree Properly

Here are 4 rules to keep in mind when removing tree roots. 

Rule #1: Never remove roots within 5x the diameter of your tree

According to Davey Tree Experts, “you can safely prune roots that are 5 times the diameter away from your tree”.

For example, if the diameter of your tree is 25 inches, you can safely remove some of the roots outside the 125-inch diameter of the tree's base. 

Tree Diameter (25”) X 5 = 125”

But that is not all. 

Rule #2: Never remove more than 25% of a tree's root mass

According to Todd Marieta you can remove up to 25% of the tree's roots, but you need to wait for 2 years before trimming them back again

Generally, you won’t need to remove nearly 25% of a tree's roots to get your lawn back. But it's a good rule to keep in mind

Tree roots exposed

Rule #3 Break tree root mass into 4 quadrants

Think about it, if you remove too many roots from one side of a tree but not the other, a tree may become unbalanced

To prevent this Marietta suggests breaking up the tree's root structure into 4 quadrants, and removing an equal amount of roots from opposing quadrants. 

For example, if your remove 10% of the roots in quadrant 1, remove an equal amount of roots from opposing quadrant 3. 

Rule #4 Leave Large Roots In Place

Remember that roots are what lead to the structural integrity of the tree. 

If you remove too many, or the wrong ones. You may go from having an issue with roots in the lawn to having an entire tree in your living room

Tree that has mulched roots around it

Dealing With Tree Roots in the Lawn At the End of the Day

If you are experiencing an issue with roots being exposed in your lawn, but you want to keep the tree there are a few very simple solutions to dealing with the situation

In most circumstances, the best solution is to simply remove the sod in the affected area, apply a layer of mulch, and create a new garden bed! 

While you can remove some of the tree roots, you need to be careful and follow the 4 rules laid out above. 

Also, be sure to properly care for your trees so they can stay healthy and strong for years to come. 

Looking to learn more about caring for your lawn? Check out our lawn care blog for more great homeowner tips.  

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