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How Trees and Lawns Rely on Each Other

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The relationship between trees and lawnsIn the same way that there are ‘dog people’ and ‘cat people’, there are some homeowners who would much prefer a treeless, turf-grass-only property and those who would never consider living in a home that was not surrounded by trees. While there are certainly several advantages to be found in both scenarios, the reality for the majority of New England homeowners lies somewhere in the middle. Therefore, as with most things in life, finding balance between trees and lawns is key.

Trees and Lawns: Nature’s Original “Frenemies”

In truth, trees and turf grass rely on each other just as much as they compete against one another.

Without the mesh of roots found in a healthy turf lawn, erosion would quickly deplete the soil of key nutrients and eventually the soil itself, exposing the trees roots and reducing its ability to secure itself to the ground.

On the other hand, turf grass that is constantly exposed to sunlight will also require a constant supply of moisture. While too much shade can stunt the growth of many types of turf grass, occasional shade provides some relief for the lawn and prevents all of its stored moisture from being evaporated.

A balanced, well-designed landscape includes different types of elements that all work together to reduce noise, create boundaries, improve comfort inside the home and provide privacy for the homeowners.

Keep in mind that the root systems of trees, turf grasses and other landscape plants have the greatest access to moisture and oxygen near the surface. Lorrie Stromme, a member of the Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series (SULIS) at the University of Minnesota Extension, says: “There is a misconception about the location of tree roots: most absorbing roots are in the upper few inches of soil. The root systems of trees are quite shallow, and they spread well beyond the dripline when unrestricted.”

Stromme concludes that “it is a myth that a tree’s root system is an underground mirror of the crown.”

Tips for Balancing Trees and Turf

Within every landscape, trees and turf compete for sunlight, water and nutrients. It can be a challenge to create and maintain an environment where both turf grass and trees coexist. Here are few ways to make that happen in your yard.

Add “shady” turf grasses.

The grass that was originally planted on your property may have been better suited for the sunnier conditions that existed on the lot when the trees were much smaller. If so, consider re-seeding the area (during the spring or fall) with a grass seed that requires less sunshine, such as fine fescues and bluegrass.


Consult with a professional tree service company to determine which tree branches either could or should be pruned back to improve the amount of sunlight that reaches the ground. Tree pruning is also essential for maintaining tree health and improving its longevity.

Go organic.

Both trees and lawns will benefit from organic matter being added to (or not completely removed from) the soil. Grass clippings and mulched leaves can provide an excellent, slow release fertilizer for the landscape. Soils that are constantly being replenished with organic materials provide a much healthier, balanced and sustainable medium for all plants to grow in.


Grasses in shady (tree covered) areas should be fertilized at a slightly higher rate than what is recommended for a sunny area. Turf experts suggest that at least 30% of the nitrogen contained in the fertilizer you use should be slow-release. The additional fertilizer applied to the lawn will eventually be absorbed by the trees roots.


Soils that drain well will allow the maximum amount of water, air and nutrients to penetrate down to the roots of both turf grasses and trees. When this occurs, rainwater and fertilizer runoff is minimized, reducing the stress that can occur when these resources become scarce.


When trees have grown too large for the property or have become a hazard for the homeowner, the safe removal of a tree by a professional tree service provider is an option that will change the characteristics of the landscape immediately.

Lucas Tree Experts Delivers a Balanced Approach to Tree and Lawn Care

The lawn care professionals at Lucas Tree Experts are knowledgeable and take extra precautions when it comes to controlling and solving turf grass related problems. Our approach insures that any turf-related issues are addressed in a way that won’t be detrimental to the trees located on the property, and vice versa.

For more information or to learn more about our tree and lawn care services, contact Lucas Tree Experts today!