Tidy up around your trees

  • Keep a layer of mulch around the base of trees, and prune away unwanted suckers and branches from trunks.

    Keep a layer of mulch around the base of trees, and prune away unwanted suckers and branches from trunks. Courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

By Tim Johnson
Chicago Botanic Garden
Posted6/19/2022 7:00 AM

Trees planted in lawns can benefit from a mulched ring to reduce competition with grass roots. It also keep mowers and weed whips from damaging trunks.

If the tree is small, mulch out to the drip line of your tree. The drip line would be the outer edge of the tree's crown where rain drips off the leaves. If this is not feasible because of the size of your tree, extend the mulch as far as you can. Even a 6-inch-wide mulched saucer will help protect tree trunks from serious damage.


Do not mound mulch or soil around trunks because it is unattractive and can cause rotting at the base of the tree.

• Prune out water sprouts (vigorous shoots on the inside of the tree and on the trunk) and suckers (vigorous shoots growing from the base of the plant). Crabapples and hawthorns tend to send out lots of water sprouts and can benefit from this type of pruning.

• Groom your perennial borders to improve plant appearance and maximize flower production. Gently remove dried or yellowed bulb foliage because the bulbs have gone dormant and have already stored nutrients for next year's flowers.

Avoid cutting back bulb foliage when it is still green, as the leaves are producing food to be stored in the bulb for next year's growth and flowers.

Prune off spent flowers (deadhead) on your annuals and perennials to encourage them to continue flowering. Remove yellow foliage to keep the plants neat and tidy.

• Weeds growing between cracks in brickwork or sidewalks are unsightly but easy to eliminate. Treat them with a nonselective herbicide when they are small to avoid having to pull them out by hand.

• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden, chicagobotanic.org.

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