What You Should Do About Exposed Tree Roots

One of our Franchise Owners received some pictures of an all too common problem in many home landscapes – exposed roots under a tree. The customer wanted to know what could be done in order to grow grass or even cover the roots so that it is easier to mow in that area.


As you can see from the picture, there is almost no grass growing under the canopy of the tree and there are a number of exposed roots. For this particular situation, my suggestion would be to forget about growing grass under this tree.  It obviously is too shady to support good turf growth.

If you are thinking about adding soil to cover the roots only add an inch or so of good quality top soil, and avoid the cheap $.99 per bag soil. What you don’t want to do is cover the roots with several inches of soil, which will deprive the feeder roots, located just under the soil, of oxygen and water.

However, the better suggestion is to cover the roots with twice chipped wood chips or pine straw.  Avoid spreading a composted material over the roots like mushroom compost. This material is great, but it does hold an excessive amount of moisture that could lead to root rots or other problems since the roots that are under the mulch still need oxygen and moisture.

Spread about a two inch layer of wood chips or pine straw over the area. In this situation, I would cover the entire area under the tree with that type of mulch. In the foreground of the picture, the grass is very thin and it appears that there is moss growing in the area. This tells me that there is another tree close by, adding to the shade problem.  This customer may need to extend the mulch bed to encompass areas around both trees. That means less mowing on the customer’s part.

The grass that is growing under the trees should be removed by digging it out. Avoid using a non-selective grass control like Round-Up if there are numerous exposed roots. It is better to carefully dig out the grass without damaging the feeder roots as best as possible and then add the mulch. Any grasses that do poke through later in the year can be spot sprayed with Round-Up.

Trees are great to have in our yards, but trees do grow, which may mean you have to change the layout of your landscape as time goes by. Change is a good thing and it allows you the opportunity to install new and different plants.  Remember, a landscape is a living thing and it needs attention, especially when the environment changes.

Do you have question about your trees and and their roots? Contact your local Spring-Green for more information.