The Relationship Between Grass And Trees


For a large amount of landscaping projects, grass and trees are most typically included in the design plan. They are often planted together, however it is important to be informed of their relationship in order to avoid incompatibility and interference with either’s growth.

Trees and grass both serve a purpose in a landscape design and both provide unique benefits such as production of oxygen, controlling erosion, cooling and even limiting pollutants. While they can both thrive together, they can also deter each other’s growth.

Grass and trees can compete for many of the necessary elements for them to flourish individually, but they can also help contribute to the other. Knowing the needs of your trees and your grass will help to maintain a good relationship and reduce the competition between the two in your yard.

Competition For Root Space

The root systems of grass and trees can compete for space underground.  Tree roots are typically found in the top feet of soil, while grass roots take up significantly more space in the soil.

A young tree with a poorly developed root system could experience a reduced ability to extract moisture and nutrients from soil shared with grass. A mature tree with matured root systems will not be affected in the same manner and are able to grow together without negatively affecting the other.

Certain trees also have an extensive root system that grows to such a point that it will affect the growth of grass. Keeping these things in mind can help when considering planting new trees and deciding the optimal location for them and the ideal base for them.

Competition For Soil Moisture

Poor soil moisture can cause stress to both a tree and grass making them susceptible to disease and pest problems. Trees or grass that are still establishing themselvescan be overtaken or stunted by weeds with low moisture requirements. Maintaining soil moisture is necessary for trees and grass to grow.

Grass under tall trees will require more watering in order to prevent a competition for soil moisture between the two. Mulching around a tree can often help prevent this or simply planting grass a small distance away from the base of the tree will help to ensure that both get the necessary amount of moisture and nutrients from the soil. Young transplanted trees will require a significant amount of water in order to full establish their root system; competing grass can diminish the amount of water and nutrients the young tree receives.

Competition For Light

Trees and grass both need sufficient sunlight to thrive. Overhead shade from a dense tree canopy can significantly affect the growth of grass below. If you suspect your lawn is not getting the amount of light it needs, you might consider removing limbs to allow more light and air through. For heavily shaded yards, it might even be best to plant a more shade tolerant grass.

Competing for light can lead to reduced grass density and strength, increased competition of nutrients and moisture, increasing amounts of shade-loving weeds, increased susceptibility to pest problems, and reduced tolerance to drought, heat, cold, and wear.

Recommendations For Landscape Layouts

For the mutual benefit of both tree and grass growth, be sure that your landscape design is conducive to the growth of both organisms. Taking the time to research the existing trees or grass can help you when considering changes or additions. Likewise, having an understanding of the needs of trees and grass will help in planning a brand new landscape. In order for both trees and grass to thrive in your yard, you might consider:

  • Groupingtrees together in a mulched bed
  • Placing mulch, about 1-2 inches deep, around existing tree trunks
  • Selecting trees and grass that are compatible
  • Using well-drained, fertile soil
  • Using shade tolerant grass around the base of a tree
  • Investing in regular tree maintenance

Las Vegas Tree Care

Not sure if your grass and trees are compatible? Do you need in depth advice on a layout suited to your environment?  Nevada Tree Service offers superior tree service and maintenance. We have the knowledge and experience needed to ensure your trees are healthy and thriving, consequently protecting surrounding grasses. Contact us today for more information.


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