How To Mow Around Your Trees


Growing up, I had my own lawn mowing business.

It was a great way to earn some money as a 10 year old.

And one of the things we always worried about was how to mow around the trees.

Your options for mowing around the trees include removing all rocks and stones, not mowing right up to the tree, removing the grass by hand. You can also put mulch within a few feet of the tree so no grass grows.

Read on to figure out the best option for yourself to keep your trees safe.

Why you should be careful mowing around your trees

Most people like to have a nice yard.

And sometimes that include nice big trees.

If you don’t already have trees in your yard, the cheap option is to buy trees when they are young and give it a few years for them to grow big.

We find ourselves in this situation right now.

We have a total 2 trees in our yard and only one of them gives us an shade.

Since we moved into our house, we have planted upwards of 5 shade trees and hope in a few years to have some nice shade around the house.

There are a few reasons you should be careful mowing around your trees, especially when the trees are young.

The roots

You cut too close to the tree, you may end up mowing the roots of the tree.

The blades on your lawn mower can be pretty sharp.

They have to be to be able to cut long grass and strong weeds.

And if you roll your lawn mower over the roots of the tree, you may end up damaging the roots.

The roots are the life blood of the tree, so damaging the roots could lead to other issues with your tree.

The bark

The bark is a part of the tree that protects it.

According to ArborDay.org:

A. The outer bark is the tree’s protection from the outside world. Continually renewed from within, it helps keep out moisture in the rain, and prevents the tree from losing moisture when the air is dry. It insulates against cold and heat and wards off insect enemies.

B. The inner bark, or “phloem”, is pipeline through which food is passed to the rest of the tree. It lives for only a short time, then dies and turns to cork to become part of the protective outer bark.

https://www.arborday.org/trees/ringstreenatomy.cfm#:~:text=The%20outer%20bark%20is%20the,and%20wards%20off%20insect%20enemies.

As you can see from the above, the bark is pretty important to sustaining the life of the tree.

The bark helps protect the tree from rain and wind.

It especially will keep the moisture in the tree, in cases where the tree doesn’t get water for some time.

If you damage the bark, this could keep the tree from living as long as it normally would.

The bark also protects the main parts of the tree from diseases and pests.

So again, not damaging the bark becomes really important.

How to mow safely

1. Clear away debris

Most of the time, our first instinct with mowing is to just start doing it.

We want to get it over with, right?

I honestly find mowing the lawn rather calming, so taking your time and taking some deep breaths could be good for you.

So, take some time to clear your yard.

We have kids that spend a considerable amount of time playing in the backyard with their toys and sometimes the parent’s toys, unfortunately.

And we don’t want to destroy those toys by mowing over them.

But besides toys, there could be rocks and other debris around the tree.

Having rocks by the tree can injure it in the case that the lawnmower goes over the rock and then the rock gets thrown at a tree or someone standing by.

So before you start mowing, walk around the yard and clear away any toys and debris.

Then when you start mowing, you won’t have to stop and start during the whole process.

2. Weed whack around the tree

Those little spots around the tree that you need removed, either weeds or grass can be taken care of much easier by a weedwhacker.

With a weedwhacker, you can be a little more precise with your movements.

A lawnmower, you can cover a 2-foot by 2-foot area, and you might find yourself mowing over the roots of the tree to get those little spots.

But with a weedwhacker, you can cover those little areas with more efficiency than a lawn mower can.

So those areas in between the roots of the tree can get the grass removed a lot easier with a weedwhacker.

There are some cons to using the weedwhacker method, though.

First being that the weedwhacker can injure the roots and the bark of the tree.

Weed whackers typically have three options for what they use to whack the weeds.

The first of these options is string, which you can purchase some here.

The second option is a blade that you can attach to the trimmer, which you can purchase here.

The last option being is a wire brush you can attach, which you can purchase here.

All of these are great options for getting rid of unwanted weeds or grass.

But they are not all so good around trees.

The string is typically made in a rather hard plastic, the blade and wire brush are going to be made of some type of metal.

All of these can easily hurt the roots and bark of the tree if you get too close with the weed whacker.

3. Don’t get closer than 3 to 5 feet within the trunk of the tree

There’s an easy way to avoid hurting the tree and that is to avoid going within a few feet of the tree.

So make sure you are at least 3 feet away from the tree while you are mowing.

Any closer than that and you might hurt the roots of the tree and could damage the bark of the tree.

And then any grass or weeds within that 3 feet, you will need to trim down or remove by hand.

You can mitigate this by getting battery powered hedge trimmers or handheld hedge shears.

Both of these options will allow you to get close to the grass and weeds that might be found underneath your trees.

And you can get down close without having to worry about hurting your tree in any way.

4. Adjust the height of the mower when you get around the tree

This might take a little more work, but could save you from hurting your trees.

Whenever you get around the tree, turn the lawnmower off and adjust the height of the lawnmower to the highest height setting.

This makes it so the blade isn’t very close to the ground.

Then when you go over the roots of the tree, they will not be injured at all, or at least very much.

If you don’t want to adjust the lawn mower height each time you get near a tree, you could mow around the trees first.

Adjust the lawn mower height to the highest setting and then go around each tree in the yard.

Once you have mowed around all the trees, then set the height of the lawnmower to what you want to mow the grass (keep in mind that you should almost never have your mower on the lowest height unless you don’t want the grass to last very long).

When you have adjusted the height, then mow the rest of the lawn.

5. Create a barrier around your tree

Now, we aren’t talking about burying an actual barrier/edging around the tree.

Not only will this keep you from being able to get a mower in there, if needed, but it could also hurt the roots of the tree.

If the tree wants to extend out further and the barrier is in the ground, the tree is going to have a difficult time expanding.

No, what we are actually talking about is putting down mulch or wood chips around the tree.

The mulch or wood chips would keep anything from growing in that area around the tree.

Both of those items keep anything underneath them from getting the sun.

They are very good at absorbing any moisture as well.

So it would be very difficult for grass and weeds to grow underneath the tree.

And therefore removes the need for you to have to mow in that area.

Make sure the mulch and wood chips don’t cover up any part of the tree, especially the roots.

Those systems of the tree should be open to the air and allowed to get as much sunlight and moisture as possible.

6. Pull out by hand

Depending on how much grass and weeds grow underneath your tree, you could just pull it all out by hand.

The pros to this is that you know you are keeping the tree safe and not injuring it with any blades, trimmers, weed whackers, brushes, etc.

You are also giving yourself some exercise because you have to get down on your hands and knees to pull the grass and weeds out (make sure to wear a hat so your head doesn’t get sunburned).

On the flip side, you might find the work exhausting.

Again, depending on how much of grass and weeds you have in that area, you may have your work cut out for yourself and find 30 minutes later that you have a lot more work to do and very little energy.

Pulling the grass and weeds out by hand should be a last resort or if you only have a little bit to pull out.

Summary

You should do what you can to protect the trees in your yard.

They are great for shade in the hot summers, and can also serve as a place for swings or for something for your kids to climb on.

Mowing the lawn is a time to consider if you are damaging your tree or not.

So make sure that you are being careful around the trees.

Adjust the lawn mower height around the trees, don’t use trimmers or coarse brushes, and even consider removing any grass or weeds from around the tree by hand.

Bill Lantz

Bill Lantz is a database analyst by day and a weekend warrior by... weekend. He's currently building up his own miniature homestead in Central Utah with his wife and six kids. Some of his interests include knowing random trivia about films, reading history books, and playing video games with the boys.

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