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How to Lay Sod Around Trees: Expert Tips

At NG Turf, we understand that integrating sod into a landscape with existing trees can be a complex task. With over three decades in the turfgrass industry, our family-owned business is dedicated to helping both homeowners and landscape professionals achieve a harmonious balance between lush lawns and mature trees. In this guide, we’ll provide you with practical tips and industry insights for successfully laying sod around trees. 

Understanding the Challenges

  • Resource Competition: Trees and sod compete for water, nutrients, and sunlight. It’s crucial to assess the area around the trees to understand the extent of root spread and canopy coverage. This assessment helps in planning the sod layout and irrigation needs.
  • Shade Challenges:  The shade from tree canopies creates a cooler microclimate which affects the type of sod that can be successfully grown. It’s important to choose shade-tolerant grass varieties that can thrive in less direct sunlight. 
yard of tall fescue sod with walkway of pavers

Preparing the Site

  • Root Protection: When preparing the site, be mindful of tree roots. Avoid deep tilling, which can damage roots, and instead opt for gentle soil preparation. 

Selecting the Right Sod

When laying sod around trees, selecting the right type of grass is crucial due to varying light conditions. Shade tolerance is a key factor to consider, as not all grass types thrive in reduced sunlight.

How to Determine
Amount of Sun Exposure In Your Lawn

  • Shade-Tolerance: For areas with significant tree coverage, grass varieties like Zoysia and Fescue are excellent choices. Our Certified Turfgrass Professionals can help recommend the best options based on your specific conditions.
  • Assessing Your Landscape: Each landscape is unique, and the degree of shade can vary significantly. It’s important to evaluate the daily sun exposure in your yard. Areas that receive a few hours of direct sunlight can support different varieties compared to those in deep shade. 

Creating a Healthy Balance: The Importance of Mulch Rings Around Trees

When laying sod around trees, it’s generally recommended to leave a mulch ring around the base of the tree rather than sodding right up to the trunk. This approach has several benefits: 

  • Root Protection: The area directly around the tree trunk, often extending out to the drip line (the area directly under the outer circumference of the tree branches), is critical for root health. Laying sod in this area can interfere with air and water absorption, essential for the tree’s roots. 
  • Tree Health: Mulch helps to retain moisture in the soil, provides nutrients as it breaks down, and moderates soil temperature. It also reduces the competition for water and nutrients between the grass and the tree.
  • Maintenance Ease: Keeping a mulch ring around the tree simplifies lawn maintenance. It prevents the need for close mowing or trimming around the tree, which can inadvertently damage the tree bark.
Calhoun, GA sod near me

While it might seem convenient to lay sod up to the tree, the long-term health benefits and ease of maintenance make using a mulch ring around the tree a better practice. 

Navigating the Challenge: Laying Sod Near Tree Trunks with Care

While it is generally not recommended to lay sod directly up to the base of a tree, we recognize that there are scenarios where this practice might be desired or specifically requested. Whether it’s for aesthetic uniformity, landscape design considerations, or personal preference, it’s important to approach this task with informed care and precision. In these instances, taking extra precautions to protect the health and well-being of both the tree and the sod is paramount. Below, we outline key strategies and considerations for those who choose to lay sod close to tree trunks, ensuring that this decision is implemented in the most effective and sustainable manner possible.

  • Avoid Soil Buildup Around the Trunk: When laying sod, ensure that the soil level does not rise up against the tree trunk. Soil buildup can cause rot and disease in the trunk and roots.  
  • Custom Cutting Sod Pieces: Around trees, sod may need to be cut into smaller pieces to fit around roots and conform to the natural landscape. Use a sharp knife or blade for precise cuts, ensuring a snug fit without overlapping. 
  • Laying the Sod: Start laying sod from the tree’s base outward, ensuring not to cover any exposed roots. Keep the sod at least a few inches away from the trunk to prevent rot and disease. 
  • Leaving Space for Tree Growth: Allow extra space around the tree trunk when laying the sod. This space accounts for future tree growth and reduces the risk of the sod suffocating the tree base. 
  • Water Management: Trees and sod have different watering needs. Be cautious not to overwater the area, as excessive moisture can harm both the tree and the sod. Providing just enough water for the sod to establish without waterlogging the tree roots is key. 

Long-term Care and Adjustments

  • Monitoring Growth: Regularly assess the health of both the sod and the trees. Adjust watering and fertilization as needed. Be prepared to adjust your approach if the tree shows signs of distress or if the sod doesn’t establish well. Flexibility and responsiveness to the changing conditions of the tree and sod are crucial. 
  • Alternative Solutions: If certain areas struggle, consider using shade-tolerant ground covers or mulch to create a seamless transition between sod and tree areas.

Creating a Harmonious Landscape

By understanding the unique challenges and applying these tips, laying sod around trees can lead to a beautifully integrated landscape. At NG Turf, we are committed to helping you every step of the way with our certified expertise and quality sod varieties 

Contact NG Turf’s Certified Turfgrass Professionals for personalized advice or to explore our variety of high-quality sod options suitable for your landscaping needs. 


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