The Q&A Archives: Mulching Exposed Tree Roots

Question: Hello,
We have an old oak tree in our backyard and the gnarled roots are exposed. Since they pose a hazard when walking, can we cover them with either topsoil or mulch to eliminate the problem? Or could you suggest another alternative? We don't want to harm the tree at all since it provides valuable shade to our home. Thank you.

Answer: Unfortunately, covering the roots of an oak tree is not a good idea. Oak trees in particular are very sensitive to changes in the soil level. Adding soil or changing the grading could kill your tree. Maybe you could set out step stones, placing them between the roots, to elevate the path enough so people do not trip. Or, maybe you could re-route the pathway to avoid the roots.

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