Does the edging around tree roots need to be dug out

Does the edging around tree roots need to be dug out
Does the edging around tree roots need to be dug out

Controversies over the re-cultivation of fruit tree washers have existed, and it probably remains as long as the orchards still are located somewhere. Only recently has the controversy about what to do with the area between the rows of the orchard subsided. Either iron it with a tractor, compact the soil and carry the humus with the wind to the neighbor’s field, or still mow the grass at an early stage, before it sends out seeds.

Everything is clear here. They decided to mow and seem to have put an end to it, but digging up near-trunk circles is a completely different matter. This article will give you an introduction to the issue of edging around a tree.


In fact, there are many variants of fruit tree bed circle maintenance, here black fallow (just digging), but also sodding, and mulching, each of these activities having advantages and disadvantages. For example, tilling the soil in the root zone and mulching the same can work well together, also including watering and fertilizing, while increasing the effectiveness of these agricultural practices.

But if you do nothing, you can also get nothing. Often, after reading some of the knowledge on the site, the gardener will come to some agreement after weighing the pros and cons. And in this, he is still helped by his physical strength (Not everyone is strong enough to dig through the circle of planting trees).


Let’s start with the advantages of recultivation of the shelterbelt of absolutely any fruit tree. First of all, and perhaps most importantly, when digging a fruit tree bed, all kinds of pests that spend the winter there die off.

Here’s how we do it: First, we remove all the branches, leaves, litter, and fallen fruit from the tree nursery circle, and then we dig on top of it with a shovel. That means that all those places where “bugs and spiders” can hide are gone, and they are collected in a pile and buried somewhere in the garden.

In addition, if the garden suffers from pests this year, then digging the soil without the use of mulching humus can promote the winter stage of pests and diseases, those that decide not to overwinter in fallen leaves or stripped wood, but precisely in the soil layer, right at the depth of its digging 4-6inch (10-15 cm). Only in this case, the soil after excavation should not be leveled, leaving it loose (in lumps) and remain so.

Another undoubted advantage is soil aeration: by digging the soil, even if it seems to be insignificant in-depth, about 4-6inch (10-15 cm), we will considerably increase the exchange of air and water in the soil and break the soil crust. Thus, water can easily penetrate the soil and its surplus (which is indeed a lot this year) will be evaporated; the roots can consume the substances dissolved in the water. In order for the process to go smoothly, they need not only water and substances dissolved in water but also air.

Addendum 3: By digging up the soil, we absolutely eliminate all competitors that can compete with a tree (even a mature one) for food and water. And this is of course all kinds of weeds, some of which, such as dandelions or creeping couch grass are very greedy. If the tree is in the country, where you are not often there, rarely do fertilizer, and only occasionally water the soil, then their complete elimination – a great benefit for the plant – is like a sigh of relief to stop sharing water and food (sometimes very scarce) with their rivals.

On thick soil, if there is not enough space (space is always scarce), it is possible to grow fast-growing shade crops, vegetables, radishes, especially when the plants are still very young, if, of course, the culture has a sufficient supply of food and water. But before that, it is necessary to prepare the soil adequately, dig it up, fertilize it, make ridges, etc., so it must be ideal and nutritious black fallow land.


It seems that everything is wonderful and we grab the spade, however, such an aggressive push can also have disadvantages.

The most common disadvantage is that we can injure the plant’s root system by driving the spade’s bayonet into its full length. Remember: It is best to dig above the biting zone to a depth of 4-6inch (10-15 cm), and there is no need to dig any deeper. You can either expose the roots or damage them: exposed roots freeze in winter, and infection can easily invade through damaged roots, for example through an open gate. There is nothing to say about this, but you must agree that this is a disadvantage, not of the method itself, but of the gardener, especially the untrained beginner, who, after reading these lines, will no longer do so.

The second disadvantage – is that, strange as it may seem, frequent replanting may not improve but deteriorate the quality of the soil, especially in years with frequent winds and droughts: the wind can insignificantly blow away the nutrient layer of the replanted soil. But there are many nuances: first of all, what kind of soil your site has: if it is chernozem, then this is what is called “blowing away” the nutrient layer under the force of a hurricane that will only be a hurricane, but then it will hurt everything around, not just this tree. If the soil is light and sandy, then perhaps there is no need to dig at all, that is, in principle, you can break the soil crust with a negligible amount of loose soil.

The severe loss of moisture is another reason why it is better not to touch the soil. Once again, this applies to the inhabitants of Dacha: if your water sparingly, but often combat weeds by tilling and turning the soil, you will unwittingly stimulate increased evaporation from the soil surface and even deeper, which will naturally deplete soil moisture and cause plants in this “ideal” allotment to dry out from lack of moisture.

Again, this is not a problem for the cultivated land, but for the farmer himself: well, who would prevent the establishment of a drip irrigation system or good seeding and moisturizing after each dig. Forgive me, but if there is enough energy to dig up the soil in the root zone, there may be enough energy to water the tree!”. By the way, if the soil is not dug up, then, let’s say, a light or medium rain will not be absorbed into the soil, but will run down the soil crust, while digging up the soil, although risky, both have the opportunity to enrich the water.

Finally – replanting the soil in the fall, especially for newly planted plants and drupes, can lead to mediocre freezing of the root system and is very dangerous, causing the same infection and possibly the death of the plant as a whole. However, who can stop the mulch from covering the soil, the mulch will penetrate to deeper levels, covered by snow, and when the snow melts, it will become the first food for the same young plants, which will be happy with such a gift and will use it until you have plants on impassable soil.

Therefore, most gardeners still favor turning the soil in the root zone of fruit trees, but do it wisely!

Introduction to the issue of edging around a tree
Introduction to the issue of edging around a tree


Most fruit growers are in favor of keeping the rootstock clean and recultivating it, i.e. black fallow under apple or pear trees, cherry or plum trees, etc. In this case, one digging is not enough to solve any problem and it is better to hold it four or even five times during the season.

Usually, the first time is in the early spring when the snow melts and the soil warms up. By shoveling during this time, the soil warms up more quickly. Waiting a week allows the soil to warm up better and allows you to cover the soil with about 1 inch of compost to provide additional nutrients for your plants. In addition, compost that has been forgotten can inhibit weed growth and reduce evaporation and overheating of the soil. You can also combine soil tilling with compost by applying a fertilizer such as liquid ammonium hydrogen phosphate (one tablespoon per bucket of water and a few liters under the tree).

In this case, try not to dig directly on the trunk (this is generally dangerous for drupe fruits, with a sensitive root neck: there it will collect water and the root neck will begin to wilt), because here, in general, is thick, keeping the roots of the plant, a little further away, 5-6inch (12-15 cm) from the trunk (in this area are often located the absorbing roots, the most active). The benefit obtained from this (correct) excavation will be the greatest.

Important! When digging in the soil around the tree, place the spade on the edge (during the growth of the roots, not through them), only then will you minimize the risk of damaging the tree’s root system.

Make a second dig in mid-summer, combining it with an application of potassium sulfate (15-20 grams per square meter, also preferably in liquid form), removing weeds, and watering if necessary (several buckets per tree). Then you can mulch 1.1lb (0.5kg) of compost under each tree (after digging).

Important: When placing moist compost under stone plants, try to keep it 0.8-1.2inch (2-3cm) away from the roots to avoid drying out the compost, and under no circumstances should you pile fertilizer – including other types of mulch – on top.

The need for third cultivation is usually determined by weeds and root zone litter caused by soil compaction. It also costs money to remove weeds and apply fertilizer, but this time with wood ash (a source of potassium and trace elements, as well as soot) or soot 250-300 g under each plant. You can also mulch the plants with compost at 1.1lb (0.5kg) per plant.

The fourth digging can be done in September and can be combined with watering by pouring 5-6 buckets of water under each plant for 3-4 days. At the end (after digging), you can also cover the surface with a 0.4inch (1cm) half-thick compost to prevent water evaporation. Covering with compost can help protect roots that have been accidentally damaged by digging up the soil.

The last plowing, already the fifth in a row, can be done 5-7 days before the start of a sustained period of temperatures below 32°F (0°C). Here you need to get rid of all plant pruning, dig it up and cover it with a 1.5-2inch (4-5cm) layer of humus to protect the roots from frost damage.

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