How to Level a Yard With Tree Roots

How to Level a Yard With Tree Roots

Trees contribute to the beauty and shade of your lawn. Even though they are helpful, they may cause underlying problems. One of these is root exposure, which can result in damages and the death of the tree.

To avoid problems with roots, you must level your yard. You can do so in three different ways, namely by covering the roots with mulch, planting ground covers, and preventing root exposure. Avoid excessively covering them as it can smother them and cease the absorption of nutrients and sunlight. 

In this article, we will discuss how to level a yard with exposed roots, as well as the reasons why roots surface, issues related to roots exposure, and root care tips while leveling the yard.


Ways to Level Your Yard with Exposed Tree Roots

Exposed roots cause interference to walkways or sidewalks. To solve such a problem, you must implement some measures, like covering them with mulch, planting a ground cover, and preventing soil erosion.

1. Wrap the exposed roots with mulch

Mulch is a good organic material to enclose the exposed roots from the surface of the ground. It can help reduce erosion, which causes the roots of a tree to come out since this is made of natural matters, like tree bark, leaves, wood chips, and more.

There are three common types of mulch you can choose from. We advise you to select a material that won’t totally absorb the water in the soil surrounding the tree, as it will deplete the moisture, making the tree unhealthy.

  • Shredded Wood Mulch

    To prevent shredded wood mulch from absorbing the moisture of the soil, spread a moderate amount. We advise you to only put an inch of this mulch, thus only covering the exposed roots.

  • Pine Straw Mulch

    One of the best ways not to absorb water from the soil is to use pine straw mulch. They can also permit moisture to pursue the healthy growth of the tree.

  • Pine Bark Nuggets

    Make sure the soil where the roots are exposed features no bark nuggets. Pine bark nuggets work effectively if they are set up without the old ones, as they may be the ones absorbing the moisture.

Before you put the mulch, you should know whether the type you intend on using can absorb moisture from the soil. This will help you control the amount and thickness of mulch covering the exposed roots.

If possible, put a maximum of 4 inches of mulch or 2/3 of the tree canopy’s diameter. Make sure it won’t drown the roots to the point it can’t absorb the needed nutrients.

2. Use ground cover

Ground covers aren’t just useful for gazebo grounds; you can also use these to cover the exposed tree roots of your tree. Before planting a ground cover, you must remove the soil in between the exposed roots. Take at least an inch-thick layer of those soil and be careful not to harm the roots.

Once you’ve crumbled the soil, add garden soil on top of it. Put up to 2 inches of garden soil and be careful not to overly cover the roots. Note not to add more soil more than 2 inches to the roots of your tree.

Since you already put some garden soil, you should then add some fertilizer. This will provide your tree with enough nutrients to continue its healthy growth, even with the presence of plants on top of its roots. Ground cover can compete for the absorption of the elements that the tree needs to grow. When applying fertilizer, make sure to follow the directions provided on the pack.

When planting the ground cover, we advise you to choose plants that don’t need much moisture and sunlight. It is recommended to plant the ground cover in the late fall or spring.

3. Prevent the cause of root exposure

Preventing the cause and effect of root exposure is likely applicable if you are about to plant the trees. Before you plant your trees, you should take a look at it to see if it is near a pathway. Keep it about 6 feet away from walkways and 15 feet away from your house’s foundations if you are going to plant shade trees as their roots can obstruct those.

In addition, you can avoid root exposure by picking the tree you are going to plant. Some types of shade trees don’t grow fast, which leads to their roots’ exposure. Some of these trees include sugar maples, red buckeyes, and many others.

Root exposure is usually caused by the soil’s erosion, so you should find a way to stop or prevent this from happening. Putting mulch, planting a ground cover, and not soaking your plants with water are only a few of the ways to avoid soil erosion. Jute netting can also help prevent it.


When you notice water pooling in certain areas in your yard, it’s important to investigate the situation as soon as you can. The presence of these spots usually mean that your yard is not level and is in need of regrading. You can leave this task to the professionals but if you want to do it on your own, here is a DIY guide to regrading your backyard


Reasons Why Tree Roots Surface

Root growth is a phase of a tree’s development that can cause exposure above its ground surface. The reasons why trees surface on the ground include soil erosion, compacted soil, natural root growth, and the type of tree you’re planting. These cases are affected or heightened by natural occurrences.

  • Soil Erosion

    One of the reasons that a tree’s roots get exposed over time is soil erosion. Rain can erode the soil, leaving the tree’s roots uncovered. If the soil is washed away, the amount of soil that covers the roots will lower.

  • Compacted Soil

    You’ll know if the soil that was based on your tree is compacted if the roots are exposed. Although this might not occur to all exposed roots, the characteristics of this type of soil will either shrink down or increase. The growth of a tree’s roots is the reason why compacted soil results in such tendencies.

  • Root Growth

    The natural development of a tree’s roots also causes its exposure. These cases of root exposure have been a problem for lawn owners since they can’t be stopped. Trees’ roots will keep growing, and it’s a common thing that they may step out after they grow larger and thicker.

  • Type of Tree

    Aside from the tree’s natural growth, its species can also contribute to the exposure of the roots. Several types of trees grow their roots, showing them above the ground. If you are unsure how to apply preventive measures, you should consult a landscape expert on how to avoid this before you plant the tree. They can also help you if root exposure is an ongoing problem on your lawn.


Root Exposure Issues

If the tree’s roots are exposed, they can interfere and cause accidents as part of your lawn’s daily routine. What’s more annoying is if the roots reach the walkways and obstruct them. It’s a big hassle every time you walk on it, especially if you are rushing on to something.

Here is an overview of the possible circumstances you may experience with exposed roots. Knowing the result may give you an idea as to why it is bad to let roots be exposed on a lawn.

  • Damages

    If roots are exposed above the ground surface, they will likely be exposed to outdoor elements, which can harm them and the whole tree. These damages may be caused by animals and humans through the use of equipment for the development of the lawn.

    Another damage roots may experience is an infection caused by insects. This can escalate to damages to the whole tree. If the tree was also planted near roads and the roots are exposed, cars and people may carelessly injure them by walking or running on them.

  • Impair lawn equipment

    When it’s time to mow the lawn, surfacing roots will probably damage your equipment. Since it is mainly used for cutting grass, having your lawn mower touch the roots may impair it.

  • Can kill plants

    The exposure of the roots on the ground can affect the plants surrounding them. Roots are located under the ground, and the plants also have growing roots underneath. It will most likely lift the plant, or worse, kill it.

  • Tripping hazard

    Exposed roots can cause you to stumble and fall. Without being careful, a person can be put into danger if they trip on the roots, which may result in injuries.


Trees are an essential part of any yard. They provide us with shade, a place for relaxation, and some even produce fruits that we can eat and enjoy. But sometimes, we need to remove them for safety reasons. Can you remove a tree from your backyard? Read our article to find out. 


Root Care Tips When Leveling Your Yard

In leveling your yard, exposed roots are one of the problems you need to solve. To cover them, you can use mulch for cushioning while still allowing the nutrients and sunlight to assist with the roots’ growth. Avoid suffocating the roots by overly covering them as doing so may kill the whole tree.

If you are seeing trees’ roots starting to show on the surface of your lawn, it is evident that there is something wrong with them. Erosion is one of the most common reasons why it happens, but some tree species also grow their roots exposed on the ground. Since you can’t stop the natural development of roots, you can only prevent root exposure resulting from accidents and interferences to the walkways on your lawn.

Below, we compiled the do’s and don’ts that can greatly help you take care of the roots of your tree while trying to level the yard.

What To Do

  • When covering the exposed roots, only use organic mulch like wood chips.
  • Beware not to overly cover the exposed roots with mulch and only use up to 4 inches thick of mulch.
  • Before you put the mulch, remove the grass growing near the roots where you are going to apply the mulch. Make sure the ground surface is only left with soil.
  • Ensure that you cover the roots with the mulch where the roots can’t be seen on the surface.
  • Using mulch is healthier than using grass.
  • Make sure you cover the mulch over the roots for cushioning, insulating, and reducing foot traffic.
  • You can add more mulch to cover the roots if it’s starting to thin, but take a look at the thickness and type of mulch you used for the old ones.
  • If you’re using pine bark nuggets, you must remove the old nuggets before replacing them with the new ones. The old nuggets may absorb too much moisture from the soil, which may take a toll on the health of the tree.
  • Check if the mulch is 3 or 4 inches thick after you’ve applied it to the roots of the tree to avoid overly covering it.

What Not To Do

  • Avoid burying the roots by adding a lot of soil. It can suffocate the roots, leaving spaces to allow the nutrients and sunlight for its growth.
  • As much as possible, avoid using an excessive amount of mulch to cover the roots depending on how you are going to level it.
  • If you’re using ground cover, still add fertilizer and garden the soil after crushing the compacted soil. So, be attentive to the thickness of the layers you’re going to cover.
  • When adding mulch, make sure you are not putting it against the tree’s bark as it can rot and decay over time and may result in the death of the tree.



Trees are some of the best elements you can add to your yard. Not only do they provide oxygen, just like plants, but they also greatly contribute to providing shade to the yard. If you want your trees to flourish, there are a couple of things that you can do to ensure their growth as well some things to look out for that may be potentially harmful like exposed roots.

If you have a tree with exposed roots, don’t ignore it and try to find ways to take care of it. Be reminded that they may die if you just leave them exposed to the outdoor elements, which can damage or decay them over time. Just follow the tips that we shared in this article and you will be able to safeguard your trees from the hazards of exposed roots.

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