The Q&A Archives: Evergreens

Question: We have moved into a new home that has beautiful mature evergreens. The roots around the base of the trees are surfacing above the soil, so that mowing is not a good idea around them. My thought is to either put mulch or top soil around the bases because I don't think it is good for them to be exposed (for aestetic reasons, as well). What is your opinion on this? Also, is there a groundcover that you would recommend to plant under them, by chance?

Answer: Some types of trees naturally run their roots along the soil surface and the roots should be allowed to continue to grow that way. Adding topsoil is not a good idea as it may smother the tree roots and possibly kill the tree. A thin layer of an inch or two of organic mulch would probably not harm the tree as long as you are not covering thick woody roots or touching the bark on the trunk. If you would prefer a ground cover you might try English ivy (Hedera helix) which is usually far more able than lawn to compete with trees for light, water, and nutrients.

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