How To Keep Grass From Growing Around Trees

The beautiful, towering mature trees catching the wind as it whispers over your home are a great addition to almost any yard. While these trees can be a nuisance at times, many folks love the benefits they bring: cooling shade in the hot summer months, a perfect perch for a birdhouse, etc. 

However, although these trees are lovely, they can cause issues with your lawn, particularly around the base of the tree. Caring for grass around the bottom of the trunk can be tricky, especially if there are exposed roots. On top of that, grass usually doesn’t grow well in the shade of the tree, leaving you with patches of grass. 

So, perhaps you want to get rid of it altogether and keep it gone. If that’s the case, you’re in the right place, so stick around to learn more. 

How To Remove Grass From Around Trees

There are several ways to remove the patchy, sad-looking grass around the base of the trees in your yard. While trees and grass can coexist, they usually perform better with a bit of social distancing. 

The grass does better outside of the shade of the tree, and the tree will have all the nutrients it needs for growth without having to fight the grass for it. Some grasses can even release chemicals that slow the development of the tree, so the tree would probably do better without the grass slowly stunting its growth. So, it’s a win-win.

Removing existing grass from around the tree isn’t difficult, but you’ll need to be careful not to damage the roots of the tree. So, if you’re wondering, “How do you kill grass and weeds without harming trees?” – here are a few different ways to go about it:


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One way to kill grass skirting the trunk of a tree is using herbicides. Some herbicides can be harmful to one but not to the other. Look for a herbicide that will kill the grass, but not the tree. The label should indicate whether the mixture will kill the grass and if your particular tree is sensitive to it. 

If you choose to go the herbicide route, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to a tee. There will be instructions and rates for the amount you should use, which will ensure you apply the herbicide in the most effective and least harmful way. Cover the trunk of the tree with cardboard to ensure you don’t get herbicide on the trunk or leaves. 

Apply the herbicide on a sunny, wind-free day, as this will ensure it doesn’t end up where it’s not supposed to. Wind and rain can escort the herbicide to other spots on your lawn, so make sure you kill the grass around the tree on a nice day. 

Dig The Grass Up

If you’d prefer to steer clear of herbicides or can’t find one that will work, consider digging the grass up by hand. Avoid using mechanical tools, like a tiller, which could cut the tree roots, damaging or even killing the tree. 

You’ll need to remove the top layer of grass and the thatch, which extends roughly 1 or 2 inches beneath the soil surface. You need to remove all of it to get rid of the grass. While mechanical tools might damage the tree, you can use a shovel, hoe, trowel, or dethatcher, as you’ll have better control and feel of what’s beneath the soil. 

If you uncover any tree roots during the process, simply recover them with an inch of new topsoil to keep the tree healthy. 

Apply A Layer Of Mulch

Mulch Around Tree

Mulching around the tree is a great way to kill the grass around the tree and keep it gone. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Weed barrier fabric
  • Wet newspaper
  • Mulch 

Start by cutting weed barrier fabric to fit around the tree. Cut enough to extend out to about the radius of the canopy. Lay the fabric around the tree, leaving a few inches of space around the trunk. 

Apply sheets of wet newspaper on the top of the weed barrier fabric all around the tree. Place layers, between 4 and 8 sheets thick, around the tree. The newspaper will block sunlight from getting to the grass but will still allow water and air to get to the tree roots. 

Avoid using materials made of plastic, as they prevent moisture and air from reaching the tree roots, which can kill the tree. Use weed barriers made out of fabric or cloth, which will allow everything that needs to get to the roots through. 

Once you apply the newspaper and weed barrier fabric, spread a couple of inches of mulch around the tree. The layer should be between 2 and 4 inches thick – enough to weigh the fabric and newspaper down and cover the newspaper, so the landscape looks nicer. 

Ensure you leave a few inches between the tree trunk and the mulch so the crown is left uncovered. This helps prevent trunk rot. 

After roughly a month, the grass underneath will be dead. New grass won’t be able to grow underneath the newspaper, weed barrier fabric, and mulch, as it won’t have the sunshine it needs to flourish. 

How Do You Keep Grass From Growing Around Trees?

Cherry Blossom Trees

Once you get rid of the grass skirting the trees in your yard, you’ll want to keep it away. Otherwise, you’ll be back to square one in no time, having to repeat the removal process over and over. 

So, to prevent grass from growing around the trees, follow the mulching process above. This is a great way to kill the grass and keep it from growing around the tree. The process is pretty straightforward and shouldn’t take overly long unless you remove excessive amounts of grass skirting the tree by hand.