Grass & tree roots - can they mix?

f1wildJuly 21, 2008

Hi! My husband & I are in the process of purchasing a home in the Ahwatukee Foothills area with a HOA that takes care (??) of the front areas. We have been living in this house for almost a year and have found that the right side of our front lawn is great, but the left side is a dirt lot. There is a 20-year old tree in the middle of the lawn with some root exposure. I can understand the summer grass not growing over the whole root, but that doesn't explain the rest of the lawn being nothing but dirt. I spoke with the property management liason today who said there is grass, but not on the roots. Well, there is no grass there at all (and I don't think it is even being watered)!! As far as the PMC & HOA are concerned the area will remain "as it is" (although it is the only lawn area without grass in the whole neighborhood). We have been given the options of cutting down the tree, digging out the roots & placing sod (at our own expense) or replacing the area with gravel (we would be the only front with gravel).

Help!! Are there any suggestions?? I hate this!!

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It can be pretty difficult to grow and maintain grass under a large, mature tree. The shade causes the grass to thin out and even shade-tolerant grasses struggle.

If this is the case your options may be limited as far as grass replacement. Digging out the roots will surely affect the tree's health and may even kill it. It would be a shame to lose a mature tree as shade is a premium here in the desert. You may want to opt for gravel but ask that colorful shrubs or groundcovers be included too.

Keep in mind that you can add a little soil to cover the roots of the tree, but more than 1/2 inch can reduce oxygen levels which can impact the tree's health. Gravel is better because it allows for oxygen exchange.

If shade isn't the issue, I would wonder why the grass has died. The sprinkler system may be in need of repair. Hopefully this would be the HOA's responsibility.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2008 at 3:10PM
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Thanks for your reply! I spent a bit of time taking pictures of our "brown patch" and all of the other front yards in our community that have maybe a root or two visible amongst actual green grass. Several of my neighbors stopped by to see what was up and commented on the terrible looking brown patch. Two said they thought there was grass, but it was all dead and dry. I had offered this explanation to our HOA liason, but was told there was green grass there (ah, no there's not!!) and it would remain as is without any sort of trouble-shooting. Anything done - tree removal, root removal, sprinkler repair, resod is to be at our own expense...isn't that part of what our "maintenance" costs cover??
Maybe this has become a legal situation and not a garden one?!!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 3:55AM
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I know that HOA's can be a PITA :) and what it sometimes takes is repeated calls and even threats (like they do to homeowners) to get what you need. Explain the situation again - even put it into a letter, and then sign and make a copy for yourself - and remind them of the BBB. I have used this approach with SEVERAL agencies (not on an HOA, but other businesses), and you can usually get what you want after a bit of haggling. Just my 2 cents.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 4:39PM
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petzold6596(8b southern NM)

When ever two living systems compete against each other, the biggest toughest wins. In your case, the tree. Grasses have short fibrous root systems. Your tree appears to have developed a larger than normal number of surface roots, most likely because of frequent shallow waterings, thus taking all the available water. At this point, I see three options: 1) Take out the tree since you cann't change the root system, 2) Fight the HOA or 3) Get green tooth pick and place them, 100 to the square inch, in the ground of the affected area.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 5:55PM
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I have decided ro fight the HOA only because I have been watching when the fronts are watered and mine is absolutely not. I will be talking to a board member who lives across the street, show her pics of our lawn compared to the others who have thick, green grass with a few roots peeking through and ask her to please help me by making a call to the management company.

BTW, the green toothpicks might come in handy when we have our annual Halloween block party - always needs for snicky-snacks, right. We actually toyed with the idea of spray painting the dead grass and dirt a nice kelly green!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 5:07AM
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