Edging around tree

jtyrie(Z7+ DFW)June 20, 2011

I have a live Oak tree in my yard and would like to put some edging around it so the mulch doesn't leach out into the yard. The problem I am having is that the lawn is sloped. There is a 21 inch drop from the top of the mulch circle to the bottom. The baked enamel edging would probably work but I don't think it would look very good. Are there any type of paver stones that would work? Any other ideas? I've looked online and not really been able to find anything on this specific problem. I also looked around my neighborhood and it looks like most of the structures were built at the time of the planting. My main concern is that if I build something up so it is level all the way around, I'll have this big open pit on one side of my tree. My understanding is that I would harm the tree if I backfill around the tree with soil to bring it up level. The tree is 8 years old. My house has brick siding and I'd like the edging to look good against the background of the house. Other than that, I'm open to any ideas.

I would appreciate any suggestions.

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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

How large is the circle, and how does it compare to the edge of the tree canopy?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 3:58PM
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jtyrie(Z7+ DFW)

I'll have to measure it if you need precise (I'm not home right now). I'd say that the circle is about 8' and the canopy isn't much more than 9 or 10'.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 4:41PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

No, that's accurate enough. So you'd be adding from 0-21" over 8': that's awfully steep. And it also nearly covers the area under the canopy, so it would cover a major portion of the roots. I'm not a pro, but I believe that would likely kill your tree.

If one of the tree experts doesn't answer here, try the Trees forum. I'm sure they'll tell you to change your plans. Too much depth of soil added atop too large a percentage of the oak's roots.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 10:12PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Do you want to level or terrace the yard at all, or do you want to leave it all sloped? And is your intention to sell or stay there? My concern with leaving it sloped would be that a future owner might do the terracing, and if that's a possibility, you might as well do it now to the extent that it can be done because you will do it with care for the tree.

What you could maybe do is think ahead to when the tree is bigger and plan for a level area under it that relates to the size of the canopy in, say, 5 years or beyond. I'm not an expert on trees in general or live oaks in particular, but my guess is that if you make your edging and build it up as high as you eventually want the bed to be, and let the area gradually fill in as leaves fall and dirt goes downhill, that the tree would survive. The issue is generally that the roots need continued access to air, and the rootlets will work their way up into new soil as it builds up. Making the bed quite big now will ensure you do not cut roots, and the roots will grow around/under the wall as they progress outward.

As for material, I think what is available to you at local vendors would be the limiting factor.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 1:34AM
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jtyrie(Z7+ DFW)

I don't think it would be practical to terrace the whole area. I have a corner lot. This part is the side yard, facing the street and it eventually mostly flattens out in the front yard. I have no plans to sell so I could live here quite a while. Obviously, my main concern is the health of the tree. Doing nothing is still an option. Thanks for the input.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 9:28AM
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You could put a low (10") rock retaining wall on the low side to retain the mulch. Thick mulch on the down hill side would not suffocate the roots. You should add an apron between the wall and the lawn to keep the grass out.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 4:35PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Yes, I was also going to mention specifically that things might work out better if you didn't think in terms of a circle, and also not in terms of just a patch for the tree, but of the contours of the yard as a whole. I think Steve's advice is an excellent direction.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 4:54PM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

Have you considered changing your mulch material? Our live oak is probably 60-70 years old. I've mulched two-thirds of the yard with pine straw, basically allowing the tree to live as it would naturally. Live oak root systems are wide-spreading and shallow.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 12:55PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Pine straw is great stuff!

With such a steep slope as you have, use more than one "wall." Build multiple terraces for the area, following the contours of the land. If you worry that the walls are too conspicuous, choose stone or blocks that match the color of the earth or the color the mulch will fade to. Or choose a cascading plant suitable for your climate, and plant a few to hang over the walls here and there.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 2:03PM
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jugglerguy(z4-5 MI)

Check out the link below for some interesting tree circle information.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Astonishing Truth Behind Tree Circles

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 10:47AM
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