Lawn CareTrees

Tree planting mistakes you must avoid

By November 25, 2019 No Comments

Planting mistakes happen all the time but if you read this blog you will avoid making basic mistakes. Let’s consider the picture below.

What’s wrong here? Take a few minutes. There’s no rush.





The turf install looks fine. All of the pieces pictured look tight, without any major gaps. Just add water and let it establish. After say, one week, you can grab a chunk and gently pull on it. If it pulls up easily then the turf still needs more time to get established. And keep watering it.


I worry about the long-term survival of this tree because in spring, when lawn care resumes, there won’t be any protection for it. You can help avoid future tree vs machine conflicts by creating a tree well or by installing a plastic guard at the base.

Tree wells work best because they keep machines away. Plastic guards are second best.

Why is tree vs machine conflict bad for the tree? Damage from mower and line edger collisions stresses the tree. To repair damaged tissues the tree must divert precious energy into repair. And that, in turn, means there are fewer resources available for growth.

Yes, trees are resilient but repeated abuse eventually kills the tree. So now, instead of enjoying free ecosystem services from the tree we must spend resources on tree removal and replacement. See the example below.



This completely “beavered” tree is now removed from the landscape. Note the lack of tree well or plastic guard for protection.



The picture clearly shows burlap at the base of the tree. Remember, only the tree should go into your planting hole. Remove burlap, wires, and strings.

I know from experience that burlap hides the actual root flare zone. What this means is that this tree was actually planted too low. The root flare should be at grade but I’m almost certain that if I were to remove the burlap I’d see the root flare below grade.

What’s wrong with planting trees too low? For one, the bark tissues above the root flare aren’t supposed to be covered with soil. Over time the bark will rot and this could invite disease in.

And two, tree roots planted too deep will not be able to obtain the required oxygen. You can imagine why lack of oxygen might be a problem.


This is what we should see in the picture above. All burlap is completely removed before planting so all we see is the trunk; and the tree is planted correctly with the root flare at grade.

There should be a tree well established around the tree to minimize any machine vs tree conflicts. All lawn care workers should be trained to avoid machine vs tree conflicts.

For more see the journal article ” Conflicts between landscape trees and lawn maintenance equipment-The first look at an urban epidemic“, by J. Morgenroth, Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 14 (2015), 1054-1058.

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