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Can I Put Soil Over Tree Roots or Will That Hurt the Tree?

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Question: Can I Put Soil Over Tree Roots or Will That Hurt the Tree?
"I want to have a load of topsoil delivered and put it over an area of my yard that's all tree roots. This is an area under a big tree. It's unsightly and I can't grow anything else there. I'd like to start a shade garden (flowers) under the tree. Would placing soil over the tree roots hurt them any?"
Answer:

I'm afraid I have to caution you against putting soil over tree roots -- at least any great amount of soil. You see, tree roots need to breathe. Small amounts of soil can be spread over exposed tree roots, in stages; this incremental approach gives the tree roots time to adjust. But suddenly covering exposed tree roots with enough soil to start a garden could cause serious harm to the tree.

A better idea to "dress up" the area under the tree might be to spread a thin (3 inches) layer of mulch over the tree roots, then lay out container gardens (potted plants) with plants of varying heights and textures. If you find attractive pots and hit upon a color scheme that pleases you, then you may end up with a "garden" that's the envy of the neighborhood!

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