Trees and your lawn - can they coexist?
Trees can look great in a lawn but there are a few things to consider for a successful relationship between your lawn and the trees in your garden.
We see large trees growing in parks, commercial spaces and botanical gardens. They provide beauty and much-needed shade and shelter for birds and other visitors to your garden.
In your average home garden many large trees are unsuitable as they just grow too big. But there are many smaller, more suitable shade and feature trees from which to choose. Most good nurseries will be able to advise on what will grow well at your place.
Common tree problems
- Whether in your lawn on a nearby garden bed, large roots cause numerous problems, especially those at or near the surface. Casuarina, Evergreen Alder, Ficus and Liquidambar are a few examples of trees with extensive root systems; and there are many more that can cause problems.
- Suckering is the vegetative formation of a new stem and root system from an adventitious bud of a stem or root. This can occur either naturally or by human action and is commonly used by horticulturists and agriculturists to reproduce desired plants over and over without significant intervention. Suckering becomes a problem when Robinias, for example, send up suckers from the rootstock if there is damage or disturbance, causing saplings to emerge. Mowing, whipper snipping and/or digging can stimulate this response. The roots can also sucker if they hit an obstacle, so it’s best to avoid suckering species altogether.
- Whipper snipping too close to tree trunks can easily lead to ring barking, which is the removal of bark around the base of the trunk. This can cause the death of the tree so best to keep clear of the trunk.
- Trees and lawns will compete for water, light and nutrients. Thinning grass around a tree is very common. Choosing a shade tolerant grass will help with this but there are limits to how much shade any lawn will tolerate. Planting deciduous trees can alleviate some winter shade issues; it comes with the hassle of having to rake the fallen leaves every autumn. You can give the base of the tree a wide berth, spreading mulch instead, to reduce competition for resources and avoid the ring barking issue.
Tree loving tips for new lawns
To help with your lawn levels when installing a new lawn try to avoid digging out important tree roots or adding soil over them. Extra soil tends to change the ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide around the roots, therefore upsetting the delicate balance of these gases leading to the demise of your tree.
If you have a special tree and find yourself unsure what to do, call an aborist for expert advice.
When mowing, keeping your lawn slightly longer in the shaded areas under trees will keep it in better shape, especially during winter. Never remove more than one-third of the leaf (and leaving a few clippings won’t hurt either).
Obviously a well-chosen, shade tolerant grass variety is always the best choice when considering trees.
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