Step by Step: How to Remove Grass to Mulch Around Trees

Step by Step: How to Remove Grass to Mulch Around Trees

Lots of things go well with trees: a complementary flowerbed, a tire swing for summer fun or a birdhouse hanging for feathered friends.

Something that’s not great for trees? Grass growing at a tree's base.

Trees and turf compete for a limited amount of water and nutrients in the soil–and grass usually wins. Plus, grass needs mowed, and the lawn mower often damages tree roots. That’s why grass around tree roots causes problems for trees.

Learn how to remove grass around tree trunks to give trees—and turf—exactly what they need.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Killing Grass Around Trees and Adding Mulch

How to Remove Grass Around Trees with a Shovel

  1. Use a shovel to dig up patches of grass, making sure you don’t scrape the tree roots.
  2. Dig two-to-four inches deep to make sure you remove all the turf (roots and all).
  3. If an area is hard to dig, don’t force it. A small root may be lying under that section of turf.
  4. Once you’ve removed the grass, apply two-to-four-inches of mulch all the way around the tree, out to the drip line.
  5. Keep the mulch five or more inches away from the trunk to avoid attracting pests.
  6. Water the mulch thoroughly, and you’re set!

How to Remove Grass at the Base of Trees with Newspaper

  1. Cut grass under the tree to an even height.
  2. Grab a few black and white newspapers. Place about 10 sheets over each section of the grass.
  3. Overlap the paper as you work your way around the tree.
  4. Soak the newspaper with water, and then apply mulch on top as instructed above.
  5. Water the mulch thoroughly.
  6. In about a month, the grass will be dead. No need to remove the newspaper either because it will safely decompose into the soil.

When you’re ready to add mulch, watch this video to learn the best way to apply mulch!


  • The Tree Doctor July 16, 2018 >Hi Jan, Check with your paper to see if they use soy-based inks for their newsprint. Most papers do for both black and white and colored print. The glossy colored inserts are reported to be more likely to use other types of inks, so their use in the garden is not recommended. Best of luck to you, Jan!
  • Jan Fennelly July 12, 2018 >'Black and white' newspaper has some colored font on it. Is it still acceptable to use as mulch?
  • The Tree Doctor August 22, 2017 >Hi Gary! Great question. We recommend using Vantage or Round Up grass killer to stop the grass from growing. You can purchase these at most home improvements stores. Please make sure to follow the directions on the label precisely. Hope this helps! Here if you have any other question, Gary.
  • Gary Rankin August 17, 2017 >around my trees I laid landscape fabric last year and mulch. I did pull grass out before I laid new mulch but must not of got roots. I put new mulch this year and now I have grass coming up through new mulch. What can I do to stop it from growing in new mulch?
  • The Tree Doctor July 14, 2017 >Hi Micaela! We would be happy to provide you with a quote. Thanks for contacting us. I’ve passed along your request to your local office, so they should be reaching out soon to set up an appointment. Or if you’d prefer, you can contact them at 330.595.1295 or Either way, talk more soon, Micaela.
  • Micaela DePalmo July 14, 2017 >Would like to have a price to have beds around my trees.
  • lyzz de g June 10, 2017 >Newspaper works great and no danger of damage to the roots. Great advice.
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