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!

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