The Q&A Archives: Trees

Question: I have four bradford pear trees in my front yard and all four trees have raised boxes around them, with hostas and rose bushes in them. The boxes are a foot and a half on each side of the trees and the boxes are about a foot tall. I have potting soil in all of the boxes, with pine needles on top of the soil. I want to remove the boxes from around the trees, but my husband says I can't because it will expose the roots of the tree and they will die. I need to know if I could remove the boxes without harming the trees.

Answer: Your husband has a point, but before siding with him I'd have to do a little investigation. If the surface roots have, indeed, grown up into the soil in the raised boxes, removing that soil will expose the roots. I'd be inclined to dig down into the raised boxes to see whether or not tree roots are there. If you absolutely, positively need to remove the raised boxes, even though roots are there, I'd do it gradually, allowing the soil to settle around the roots and eventually weather away. This gradual process will allow the roots to either form bark (if they're going to be above the soil surface), or work their way back down into the soil where they will be protected. If you remove the sides of the boxes, the soil will escape as the area is exposed to rain (or water from the hose). If it erodes over a period of months, I think it would be better for the trees. You would end up with a mound of soil around each tree, which would eventually weather away.

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