Q: We’ve built a home with a large tree in the front yard. The builder, in order to protect the tree, created a tree well that’s about six feet deep. The problem is that it is clearly a safety hazard for people, kids, and animals.
We don’t want to lose the tree but we’re not sure of our options. If we cover the trunk base with dirt, how long before we can expect the tree to die?
A: Tree wells are uniformly condemned by arborists. However, I took a picture of a four-foot deep tree well around a pecan tree in 1999 and it is still living, with hardly a sign of decline.
I can only assume the well was constructed properly, with a thick layer of coarse stone over the earth and roots outside the well, the rocks covered with landscape fabric and an eight inch layer of sandy topsoil. This type of construction allows the roots to breathe and permits water and nutrients to filter down to the roots.
Rather than fill around the trunk, why not make a lattice top to the well, using pressure treated lumber? This would keep kids out but allow the tree to live as long as it can.
See TREE WELL for a description of how to build a good tree well.
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