Careless mowing and weed trimming can cause trees to die a slow death


Careless Mowing and Weed Trimming Can Cause Trees to Die a Slow Death

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Homeowners might be their trees’ worst enemy if they don’t take care when using mowers and weed eaters around them.

“Trees don’t heal from cuts like we do, so a lawn mower scrape, or a trimmer slash, creates a permanent injury,” said Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension. “Once the underlying wood is exposed, you’ve put out a welcome sign for diseases and pests to attack your trees.”

Many an older tree has succumbed to internal rot that originated with damage caused years earlier.

According to Byers, there is an easy way to avoid this kind of damage. Remove the grass and weeds from around the tree. Not only will it make it unnecessary to mow near the tree, the tree will not have to compete for the nutrients and water.

Spreading mulch of leaves, grass clippings or straw around trees will keep weeds and grass under control and will give the tree base an attractive appearance. Plus, these organic mulches will help conserve moisture, keep soil temperatures stable, and add nutrients to the soil.

“Damage by mowers and weed trimmers isn’t a tree problem, it’s a people problem. That mighty oak may look invincible, but careless mowing and weed trimming can cause it to die, slowly, from a thousand small cuts,” said Byers.

For more information on this and other lawn and garden questions, call the University of Missouri Master Gardener Helpline at the Greene County Extension Center, (417) 881-8909.

For 100 years, MU Extension has engaged Missourians in relevant programs based on University of Missouri research. The year 2014 marks the centennial of the Smith-Lever Act, which formalized the Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service, a national network whose purpose is to extend university-based knowledge beyond the campus.

University of Missouri Extension programs focus on the high-priority needs of Missourians. Each county extension center, with oversight by locally elected and appointed citizens, is your local link to practical education on almost anything. More information on this topic is available online at

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