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Tree Ring Project


This spring, consider putting a tree ring in at your home. When you are installing a tree ring there are a few steps to take along the way to ensure that your tree ring looks perfect.  This will be a helpful guide to doing it yourself.

List of materials

  1.       Shovel                                                
  2.       Tamper
  3.       Lime stone screening
  4.       Bricks
  5.       Top soil
  6.       String and marking paint
  7.       Shade tolerant plants/ Mulch


You can download the PDF version of this project here.  Project Guide



Prep work


The first step in achieving a proper tree ring is to measure the distance you want to fill in around your tree.  You can do this by taking a loose piece of string and tying it around the bottom portion of the trunk.  You will want to go 3-6 ft away from the tree.  Make sure the string is loose so you can circle the tree with your marking paint in order to achieve a perfect circle.


After you have your area marked off, you will need your shovel to start removing either dirt or grass.  When you go to line the bricks up make sure you check the distance between the back of the block and the tree for proper distance before you start digging.  You will want to dig 3-4in down into the ground. Once you get your outer perimeter dug out make sure to keep the edges of the grass line nice and straight for a better look!!


Before you put your blocks into the area you dug out, you will need to apply some leveling sand to help keep the bricks flat.  Lime stone screening will work just as well since it’s for leveling purposes.  You will want to pour about half an inch of sand down and tamper it down.  The tamper will help give the area the flatness it needs.


Laying the blocks


When you’re ready to start the foundation you may need a rubber mallet to help put the final bricks in place.  Working from left to right is the easiest way to install these.  Once you get the first row down, take a level and lay it across the base level of bricks to ensure they are level.  You may have to re-tamp the area until its level.

When you go to start stacking your next couple layers make sure to stagger the bricks to give it more detail to blocks.  Try to avoid having all the seams line up vertical. The back of the stones will keep them in align and from falling off the back end.



Plant and Fill


Once you have all your blocks in place it’s time to fill the big empty space around your tree.  Mixing a combination of top soil and premium garden soils is the best way to go if you want to plant flowers under the tree.  Depending on how much sun the bottom of the tree gets will determine what types of plants you can use.  If you just want to fill it in and cover it with mulch that works as well.  Just fill the inside with topsoil and cover with at least 2in of your favorite mulch!!



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Posted 2012-02-21T21:41:48+0000  by FlyingHDsod FlyingHDsod

Bad idea!  As many have previously stated, this project is likely to result in a dead tree.  Death won't be instant, or over the short term.  The root system of a tree is about 2.5 times its height.  Digging in the root zone is not reccomended.  Although the base of the bricks is just three inches below grade, there is a possibility, especially with mature trees, ofdamaging roots.  Adding soil and mulch will compact the soil in the root zone and keep air from reaching the roots.  If you do not believe what many of us have stated, do some serious research before doing this project or consult an arborist.

Posted 2012-03-09T18:24:09+0000  by Janva
Not "could," it will kill the tree. Tree rings are hillbilly landscaping. Can't you come up with a better project to use your building blocks, like terracing a hillside.
Posted 2012-03-09T20:07:48+0000  by steve_mass

You've been lucky!  I have an ash that's about 20 years old that had a combination of mulch, dirt and daylilies that had a depth of about 6 inches.  I was horrified when part of the canopy started to die.  (Thought it might be emerald ash beetles).  Fortunately the arborist advised that it wasn't infested with EAB, I was just suffocating the poor thing.  Scraped off the mulch et al down to the root flare and it's recovering.  Not as pretty but the tree survived.  Think "donut" and not "volcano" when mulching and no more than 2 to 4 inches. 

Posted 2012-03-09T20:30:07+0000  by whiskeys_girl

What if the tree is on a downslope of about 15 degrees. What would I need to do. Thanks, Bob

Posted 2012-03-09T20:39:21+0000  by bobobo1943

I like this project, as this will look great, and it appears that this would not take much effort or expense. *S* 


HOWEVER, I would like to make a suggestion for those who, like myself, are concerned about the survival of the tree.  Instead of planting new plants in a new layer of soil, you can put them into pots, and then lightly mulch to cover the pots. In this way, the air will still be able to reach the tree roots, and you can change the look any time you wish.

Posted 2012-03-09T21:51:54+0000  by scot_belle
If it is a Silver Maple the roots will just keep coming up. That is how they naturally grow. Raising the pots up would not be a bad thing and won't cause the roots to come up any faster.
Posted 2012-03-09T22:55:27+0000  by Sibley

I have a large tree ring, about 7 foot radius and a foot deep around a mature silver maple and the tree is fine.  The roots grow up into the soil, however, so the plants must compete for nutriants and water.  Some plants do really well, but some can't take the competition.

Posted 2012-03-10T00:02:49+0000  by gngrhill

Filling the tree ring with mulch instead of top soil or compost is just as bad. Also no mulch/soil should be touching the bark of the tree. Trees should always have their root flares showing. Covering them with soil will cause the bark to rot from the dampness and lack of air exchange. Digging in the area around the tree as you suggest will also damage the trees important surface roots. In general this whole project is bad for the existing tree. Perhaps you should log into MSU Extensions educational site or SOCWA's site and review proper planting techniques. As an Oakland County Master Gardener, SOCWA volunteer, Conservation Steward, and professional gardener. I would suggest removing this project and using your retaining wall in gardens that don't involve changing the grade around trees.

Posted 2012-03-10T00:03:51+0000  by ldsteiner
We did this along time ago. After a few years the tree roots will start to come out of the ground outside of the ring. The tree did not die, but try to mow the lawn with roots sticking out of the ground. Not a good idea.
Posted 2012-03-10T02:18:48+0000  by Sobeit

First: Never do a video when there is strong wind.  The wind rushing around the microphone is very annoying and made part of the conversation muffled.  Second:  This really is a bad choice for a project.  the amount of mulch or soil you have recommended will kill the tree and if the tree you have next to the house in the video dies and falls, it will take out part of the house.  Please remove this project or I am afraid you will have lawsuits over dead trees and damaged houses and cars from the falling dead trees. 


I love to watch the videos and look at the projects on the Home Depot site.  They are usually very well thought out and presented.  This one is not and should be removed!

Posted 2012-03-10T03:31:23+0000  by tarheelgardens
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