The Q&A Archives: Protruding Roots On Maple Tree

Question: We have recently purchased a house in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and have a maple tree in the front yard which has roots protruding above ground level. I am interested to know what I can do to cover or eliminate these roots. I don't want to harm the tree and am afraid of accidentally hitting the roots with the lawnmower. Also our little girls is very excited to have a yard, we moved out from the city, and I am concerned about her playing in the front yard and tripping or falling on the roots. I had thoughts of covering over them, or creating a flower bed around the base of the tree to cover the worst protrusions. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.

Answer: Maple trees are relatively shallow-rooted. If you cover the roots, you risk "smothering" the tree. I would place no more than an inch of soil over the roots; if that won't cover them, then perhaps you can set a park bench over the worst ones, or something like that to keep people from tripping over them. I wouldn't put anything large there that will affect how water gets to the roots, or anything that limits air circulation.

I wouldn't plant a flower bed, but you could try to establish a durable ground cover (by covering the area with just that inch of soil). You'll need to remove the existing grass, but don't till or you could damage the shallow tree roots. (Ajuga, pachysandra, or periwinkle would be good ground cover choices.)

Enjoy your new yard. How about a swing off one of those low branches--I can almost feel the breeze in my face!

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