How to make a tree root barrier

How to Block Tree Roots from Entering Your Garden

We always marveled at the vigorous growth of the giant fir tree behind our garden. But as the garden beds in the vicinity of the tree gradually became depleted over the years, we began to connect the dots.

My wife was first to see the connection, digging deeper into the raised beds until she came upon an inch-thick woody root, obviously not from any vegetable crop. She pulled the root upwards to show how it was coming from the direction of the giant fir tree. I tried to convince her otherwise, knowing that if she were right then I had a big job on my hands.

For a few years we put off the inevitable – building a root barrier to keep invading tree roots from accessing our fertile garden soil. But as more beds became depleted and our planting options narrowed, the need for a root barrier became urgent, and so the digging began.

Our plan was to dig a trench along the 60’ western perimeter of the garden, blocking any roots migrating into our raised beds from that direction. The trench would be dug to ‘hardpan’ depth, about 3’ – 4’ deep, and lined with doubled-over sheets of galvanized metal roofing. The job went well, exposing many roots ‘mainlining’ into our beds, and within a few days the bulk of offending roots were severed, and blocked from entering the garden. Here’s how it is done:

1. Identify the source of invading roots

If you think tree roots are entering your garden, dig into the bed closest to the suspect tree. Pull any root upwards to get a better look and which direction its coming from. If the root is thin and breaks easily, it may be a viny root from an invasive weed like Horsetail. But if the root is thicker and woody, dig it out further to see its growth direction – it will lead to the source tree. The size of the tree will give you indication of the scope of the problem. If it’s a large tree, expect more than one or two roots. You can visualize the pattern the roots are likely following, since they radiate outwards from the tree. This will give you an idea of how long to make the trench.

2. Dig a trench wide enough to stand in and deeper than roots can go.

Begin the trench by digging down and about 18” wide, providing enough room for you to stand in while digging the deeper part of the trench. Leave a ‘step’ on one end so it’s easy for you to climb out. As you come across rocks, set them on the ground above, close to the trench since you’ll be throwing them back in when it’s time to backfill.

Before digging, set a tarp or ground cloth on the ground alongside the route you’re going to dig. As you shovel, pile the dirt on the tarp. This will make it easier to return all the soil to the trench as you fill it back in.

3. Use a pruning saw to cut the invading roots.

Before long, your shovel will hit into one of the roots. Dig the soil around to fully expose the root, then saw it from both sides of the trench. This will leave the trench clear of root stubs. Use a small hand pruning saw for this work. Set the cut root sections in a pile near to one side of the trench – you’ll want to show them to your wife so she sees you’re getting results. (This buys you future undisturbed hammock time.)

4. Set down folded sheets of metal roofing on edge, against the far side of the trench.

Try to find some old galvanized metal roofing sheets to use for the barrier. Another great option which we’ve used in another garden, is HDPE plastic sheets, doubled. HDPE will last indefinitely underground, and are tough enough to prevent root penetration. We found these HDPE sheets at a feed store where they are discarded after use on feed pallets (they prevent the feed sacks from being pierced by the rough pallet wood. You could ask at your nearest feed store if they are available. Otherwise, use the galvanized roofing.

It’s important to fold over the top edge of the metal sheets. This can be done by hand to form a loose fold, and when the dirt is filled back in, the fold will close more. Or you can use a heavy pry bar to force it closed. The reason you want this folded edge is that the top edge of the metal barrier may protrude just a bit above ground level when the job is finished. Any sharp edge would be a hazard.

Form a continuous wall with the sheeting, and overlap the ends at least 12”, so no roots can work their way through the barrier.

5. Throw the collected rocks into the bottom and fill in the trench.

Toss in any rocks you’ve collected, then fill the dirt back in. Overfill the trench, since the dirt will compress a few inches when walked on. The severed tail ends of the roots remaining in your garden beds don’t need to be unearthed and removed. Over time they will rot in place, providing nutrients for future crops.

Building a root barrier seems like a daunting task at first, but the job goes pretty quickly once begun. It’s satisfying to know you’ve shielded your garden beds from invading roots, and that all the special amendments, fertilizer and water you put into your garden will go to the plants they’re intended for.

How to Block Tree Roots from Entering Your Garden - 22

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About the Author

Greg Seaman
Originally from Long Island, NY, Greg Seaman founded Eartheasy in 2000 out of concern for the environment and a desire to help others live more sustainably. As Editor, Greg combines his upbringing in the cities of New York, Boston and San Francisco with the contrast of 31 years of living ‘off-grid’ to give us a balanced perspective on sustainable living. Greg spends his free time gardening, working on his home and building a wooden sailboat with hand tools.

How to Install a Root Barrier

Trees and screening plants like bamboo are staples of any well-landscaped area. They clean the air of carbon dioxide, cool living spaces, bear fruit for our tables, provide a habitat for birds and wildlife — the list goes on.

While trees and bamboo are beautiful, their roots can be destructive to foundations, concrete structures, utility pipes and drain fields. If you are planting a new tree or bamboo plant, installing a root barrier along with it will save you time, money and hassle in the long run. And if it’s an existing plant that’s wreaking havoc on neighboring crops or structures, a root barrier is critical to repairing damage caused and preventing more issues going forward.

Here, we’ll explain what root barriers are, why they are important and how to install them for a variety of applications.

What is a root barrier?

A root barrier is essentially just what it sounds like: a mechanism that prevents the spreading of underground tree roots and resulting damage to nearby structures. Root barriers come in physical and chemical forms, with the latter preventing the growth of tree roots by destroying them altogether, often taking the surrounding plant life with them. For that reason, we recommend the less destructive, more environmentally-friendly option of installing a physical root barrier.

Physical root barriers simply redirect roots without harming the tree or bamboo. A high-density polyethylene (HDPE) root barrier acts as a waterproof seal to prevent the loss of moisture in soil while protecting foundations, utility piping, hardscapes and pavements from damage.

Why should I use a root barrier?

There are many reasons to consider installing a root barrier, from protecting the well-being of your plants to preventing trip-and-fall hazards in yards, driveways and on sidewalks.

Root barriers can keep tree roots from invading garden soil and depriving your plants of moisture. If your crops aren’t quite thriving like they used to but that big old oak tree in the backyard has never looked healthier, you may want to take a peek beneath the soil. If you’ve got wooden roots where beetroots should be, it’s probably time to install a root barrier.

While root barriers can help create an environment where all plants can coexist in harmony, depending on the location of the tree in question, they can also be a critical safety consideration. Tree roots growing under sidewalks, for example, can cause the concrete to lift, creating a tripping hazard and potential liability (especially in public spaces). If the tree is on your property, root barriers can help prevent costly damage to yards, swimming pools, driveways and the foundation as a whole.

When and how to install a root barrier

Ideally, root barriers should be installed before planting a tree or bamboo plant in order to properly direct the roots from the start and avoid disruption to the root system. However, we understand this isn’t always feasible — and that, more often than not, the need for a root barrier doesn’t become known until later down the road when the issue can no longer be ignored. Whether you are starting fresh or mitigating an existing tree or bamboo plant, a successful installation begins with a flexible, high-quality root barrier that conforms to the space while resisting tears and punctures.

Linear barrier vs. surrounding root barrier installation

Root barriers can be installed in either a linear or surrounding fashion. Linear installation is generally best-suited for trees that are up against concrete sidewalks or curbs, allowing you to install the barrier only on the side of the tree at risk of impacting the foundation.

Root barrier installation for new trees

Planting a new tree is the best time to install a tree root barrier, as this will allow the roots to grow naturally in the direction you set. Here’s a quick breakdown below — for a more comprehensive explanation, check out this step-by-step guide.

  1. Plan & Measure. First, measure the diameter of the trunk and multiply that number by three, rounding up rather than down (in this case, a little extra room is a good thing). Then, measure the length of the root barrier, dividing that number by the width of its panels. This will tell you how many panels you need.
  2. Get to Digging. Once you know where you’re installing the root barrier, dig a trench. The depth for most trees is 24” – 36”, less 1 inch if you plan to catch surface roots as well. The trench width should be approximately three-to-four inches wide.
  3. Install Your Root Barrier. Insert each panel of your root barrier into the trench, making sure it sticks out at least one or two inches above-ground. Replace the dirt, alternating one-third dirt, then water, then dirt, and so on until the trench is backfilled to ground level.

Root barrier installation for existing trees

Installing a root barrier for an existing tree is a similar process to that of a new tree — that is, until you get down to the roots. Depending on the type, age and size of the tree — and the extent of the root spread — it might be necessary to cut back some of the roots, which may be best handled by a professional. (On that note, it’s probably not a bad idea to get the advice of a professional landscaper or arborist, especially if this is your first root-mitigating go-round).

Special considerations for bamboo barriers

Because bamboo grows at such a rapid pace, containment is crucial. Installing a bamboo root barrier (also called a rhizome barrier) follows essentially the same process as installing a tree root barrier — the main difference is in the measurements. For timber bamboo projects, we recommend a custom-fabricated HDPE geomembrane liner, which is engineered to perform in extended exposure to outdoor conditions. Because HDPE is custom fabricated to size and specifications, it is a versatile option ideal for unwieldy bamboo plants.

Materials to use for root barriers

Whether you’re ready to plant a new tree or need to mitigate damage from an existing one, Americover can provide you with the materials to create a happy and healthy environment for all of your plant life. Browse our selection of high-quality root barriers and rhizome barriers, or give us a call at 760-388-6294 to discuss the right solution for your space. And, be sure to check out the video below for a visual guide to installing a root barrier.

Video: What is a root barrier and how do I install it?

what to do and how to remove them

A house located under the canopy of dense foliage is more of a headache than a dream. The powerful root system of large trees can threaten the foundation. As a result of the neighborhood with such plants, you can get cracks in the walls, a rickety roof and a completely destroyed base of the building. To prevent this from happening, it is important to comply with the tree planting distance requirements near the house and take protective measures if this condition has not been taken into account earlier.


  1. Can tree roots destroy the foundation
  2. What to do if the roots grow into the foundation
  3. How to get rid of the roots that have grown into the foundation
  4. How to protect the foundation from roots
  5. How far from the foundation to plant trees
  6. Can the roots of trees destroy the foundation

    The roots of many trees are strong. In search of moisture, they are able to break through very durable materials.

    Roots rarely penetrate into a strong monolithic foundation. They perceive the foundation of the house as an obstacle and try to get around it. But when there are cracks in the foundation, the roots grow in them and increase in size. Signs of it:

    • cracks in the part of the foundation located above the soil surface;
    • warping of window frames or doorways;
    • floor swelling.

    Trees can cause foundation settlement. Pulling moisture from the soil, they destroy its structure. But this happens only under the following conditions:

    • the tendency of the soil to swell during shrinkage;
    • extreme dryness of the soil.

    Alternating drought, heavy rain and frost is undesirable for clay soils. In summer they shrink, in autumn and winter they swell from the abundance of moisture and frost. Such soils move more intensively when there are branched roots of powerful trees inside. Plants disturb the balance of soil moisture.

    An important parameter is the level of foundation penetration. Shallow bases sag during drought, and the roots have easier access to them. Foundations with significant depths require a long and prolonged drought, so the roots under them rarely germinate and cause no damage. But moisture-loving trees with powerful aggressive roots cause subsidence of the soil even under the deep base of the structure.

    What to do if the roots grow into the foundation

    If it is found that the roots of the tree have begun to grow into the foundation, further destruction of the foundation of the building must be prevented. By simple logic, many decide to cut down a tree and get the roots out of the ground. But this is not always the right decision.

    The complete elimination of a tree must be carried out deliberately. Before destruction, research the foundation. An ingrown root, when uprooted, can pull the structure behind it, change the bearing capacity and density of the soil under the house. Therefore, evaluate all the risks.

    But a tree near the house and cracks in the foundation or walls are sometimes unrelated. To confirm the impact of the roots, it is worth ordering a professional examination. Experts will conduct research and give a conclusion.

    Before cutting down an old tree, additionally assess the soil moisture level. The settled soil, having lost the “extraction” of moisture, can begin to swell and rise. There will be a deformation of the foundation structure, and cracks will form on the walls. If the roots have not reached the foundation and have not begun to destroy it, the tree is best left untouched.

    How to get rid of roots that have grown into the foundation

    If the roots have already penetrated into the foundation, it is necessary to order a saw cut of the tree at the first stage. Do not perform this work without the use of special equipment. There is a risk of destruction of the house by a trunk that fell during a saw cut.

    After removing the trunk, proceed to remove the stump:

    1. First cut it at ground level.
    2. Then dig a trench to the foundation, cut off and remove all the roots towards the house.
    3. Roots that have penetrated deep into the wood should not be touched. It is enough to close the cracks formed with cement mortar.

    Roots deprived of food will no longer develop and the destruction of the foundation of the house will stop. The stumps are uprooted, otherwise the roots can still grow. To stop the growth will help special chemicals introduced into the wood.

    Illegal felling of trees can be recognized as an administrative offense. Therefore, when deciding to get rid of a tree, even on your own site, get permission from the relevant authorities.

    How to protect the foundation from roots

    It is not always possible to cut down an already planted tree to save the foundation. Often this situation develops if it is located on the site of neighbors in violation of existing norms. It is not always possible to negotiate with the owners of such vegetation. The only way out is to build protection for the foundation of the house or to enclose the root system.

    Asbestos-cement slabs, dug in next to the foundation, will help “scare away” the roots crawling on the house. Their surface is strong and smooth, so the roots will not have anything to catch on, and they will continue to grow to the side. The material of the plates will increase the acidity of the soil, and this will stop the development of plants.

    A simple and quite effective protection is a polymer waterproofing profiled membrane on the outer surface of the foundation. It reliably protects against moisture in the ground. A waterproofing membrane buried in the ground will be more durable than a sheet of steel of the same thickness.

    An alternative is a steel screw pile foundation. As a barrier to the germination of flora, geotextiles are laid under the house. So you can save trees and build any house.

    At what distance from the foundation to plant trees? The document defines the minimum distance for planting trees to buildings under construction. It is at least 5 meters. But these rules apply to trees with a crown diameter of not more than 5 meters.

    The radius of growth of the roots of species with a crown diameter of more than 5 m is approximately equal to the maximum height of the tree. Therefore, in order to determine the landing distance, it is worth considering the parameters of a particular breed:

    To avoid destruction of the foundation, it is better to plant low-growing trees near the house: mountain ash, hawthorn, broom or maple. These species usually do not grow above 6-8 m. Fruit trees with a short trunk are suitable for planting next to buildings. It is most reliable to place bushes near the house, and trees as far as possible.

    When buying a new house, evaluate the proximity of trees near it. If building codes are not followed, the foundation is already affected by roots and its active destruction will soon begin.

    When deciding whether to plant a tree near your home, evaluate the root system of the species, taking into account the local climate and soil. If the water level is high, the roots begin to grow several tens of centimeters from the surface. With a lack of moisture, they rush into the depths.

    Sometimes even an old tree begins to break foundations if the humidity level has changed or a structure has been made near the tree to block water from reaching the roots. It is worth considering these circumstances so as not to expose the foundation of the structure to an unnecessary risk of destruction.

    How to protect trees and shrubs from rodents and hares? — Botanichka

    Woody plants and shrubs can not only freeze in extreme winters, suffer from provocative thaws during the cold period and return frosts in spring or even early summer, but also from rodents, which are mice and hares in gardens and berry fields. By their nature, these creatures are timid and you will be very surprised if you notice a hare in your garden in the summer. More often you can see a mouse, but often in the late afternoon, when it literally merges with the soil. In normal times, they try to stay away from human dwellings.

    Orchard shrub damaged by rodents. © Julie Martens Forney


    • Why are rodents harmful?
    • Protective measures effective against mice
    • Garden protection against hares
    • If the tree is already damaged

    Why are rodents harmful?

    Rodent damage to horticultural crops is colossal: if a bush, even severely damaged by rodents, can still recover from the roots, then the tree will either have to be restored by grafting or putty, or it will be completely lost. After all, a tree, in fact, consists of two parts - a scion and a rootstock. On a scion on which a variety is grafted, rodents gnaw the bark around the ring and only the stock remains alive, that is, a savage who will not give you anything worthwhile (I mean the harvest of varietal fruits).

    Young plants often never recover because the bites can also be very deep. Hares are able to gnaw even rather thick branches literally in half, and mice can gnaw sections of the bark with a ring.

    Naturally, after such injuries, there can be no talk of any normal sap flow, it will be forever disturbed. Therefore, it is necessary to prevent such troubles, and gardeners, in order to ward off mice and hares from their trees and shrubs, over the years of their trial and error, have come up with many interesting ways that can truly protect the winter garden.

    Types of protection effective against mice

    In total, there are two types of protection against rodents: it is absolutely safe for nature and quite effective mechanical method and a little more unpleasant for the environment, but to some extent even more reliable, chemical method of protection.

    With the mechanical method, the trunks or trunks, if we are talking about bushes, need to be tied with something, covered, somehow closed so that the rodents see the “prey” but cannot get to it.

    The very first option is coniferous spruce branches. They can be tied around both the bases of bushes and tree trunks. Moreover, both large and recently planted. This method has a clear advantage - it is cheap. The method is quite effective: the needles prick, and if the trunks and trunks are tied well, then the rodents will not get close to them. But there are also disadvantages - the law on forest protection provides for a serious fine for all kinds of theft. True, twigs of spruce branches can always be collected from clearings, which are now quite numerous.

    Plastic mesh is perhaps the most common type of plant protection against rodents. Of course, it is difficult to install a plastic mesh on the trunks of shrubs, but it protects the trees reliably. The main thing is not to rush with the installation of a plastic mesh and not save on it.

    It is better to install it after the first snow falls, by 5-7 centimeters, when it settles - then it can be installed, taking not a short piece, but up to the first branches of trees. Cons of a plastic mesh: it perfectly protects against mice, but it may not save you from hares.

    The hare is able to stand up on its hind legs and gnaw at wood above the net. Of course, in this case, shoots located above the grafting site will suffer, but still most of the shoots, and sometimes all, will be destroyed and the tree will have to acquire them again.

    Ruberoid and tar paper are good materials. They can also tie the trunks of trees and shrubs, laying the layers as tightly as possible, be sure to bury them a little into the soil and tie them with a rope.

    However, this material has a huge minus - during periods of thaw, it gets very hot, condensation forms under it, the bark can begin to rot or even rot, and the wood heats up. This is bad, because if such weather suddenly sets in in winter, then both roofing felt and roofing material need to be removed (you must admit that this is quite tiring).

    It is not uncommon for gardeners to simply compact the snow around shrubs and trees as tightly as possible from time to time . This is a good way to protect against mice, because it will not run on the surface of the snow, and it will not dig a move in a compacted layer of snow. True, for hares, on the contrary, this is an open road - run up along it and gnaw.

    Tying the trunk of a young tree with a special tape to protect against sunburn, as well as rodents and hares. © John Crook

    The easiest and safest way to keep rodents out is to treat your plants with Mix clay and cow dung mixed in equal proportions. As a result, you should have a consistency similar to liquid garden pitch or sour cream, only this will stick and quickly harden on the trunk, and not drain down. For a greater effect, for ten liters of the mixture, add about a tablespoon of carbolic acid and be sure to mix everything thoroughly.

    This solution is just perfect for coating raspberry stems, blackberries, young trees, and old trees too. You can lubricate higher so that even a large hare, standing on its hind legs, does not reach the branches. True, the crust and the height of the snow cover can play into the hands of the hare, in this case, loosen the snow more often, breaking the crust.

    Professionals say that a composition consisting of four kilograms of clay, the same amount of fresh mullein, 90 g of creolin and 85 g of karbofos (concentrated) will protect the garden by 100%. The main thing is to mix it all thoroughly and dilute it with water, to a state close to that described above - that is, garden pitch mashed in your hand (which is better) or sour cream (which is a little worse). After that, you can safely coat the trunks up to the skeletal branches, or you can touch them too.

    There are years when there are not just a lot of mice on the site, but it seems as if the mice attacked us and want to capture us. In this case, you just need to use poison baits . Usually they are cooked on their own, using rye or wheat bread and grains of various cereals for this, after placing them in poison.

    But this method has a huge disadvantage: it is extremely dangerous for birds and domestic animals. How to be? - Make an interesting bait for mice: after processing grains or bread in a solution of any rodent poison, place these poisoned components in tubes, well, let's say, from roofing material. In addition to mice, none of the domestic animals and birds will get such “food”. Of course, it is most environmentally friendly to use traps, mousetraps, traps, but all this sinks in winter under piles of snow.

    Wrapping tree trunks with fine mesh. © George Weigel

    Protecting the garden from hares

    On the face of it, these are pleasant creatures, but how much trouble happens when you realize that the garden is literally destroyed, as well as the money spent and a lot of work.

    You can solve the problem from hares in one fell swoop by installing a real, strong and high fence around the site, so that they can neither crawl under it nor jump over it. In order for the fence to “work”, when installing it, it is necessary to bury the iron sheets thirty centimeters into the soil in order to completely exclude digging, and the height of the fence must be at least two meters, because sometimes a layer of snow can fall a meter and even one and a half.

    In addition, when a large amount of snow falls, or doing this periodically, you can scatter stem sagebrush over the area. It has been noticed that hares do not tolerate this smell, and even hunters often use this technique, literally taking the hare to where they need it. In addition to scattering wormwood, its branches can still be wrapped around the trunks of trees and shrubs in autumn or planted nearby.

    Hares do not tolerate strong odors , so for those who have a large household, you can leave a piece of bacon, wait until it goes rancid and hang it in the area near a tree (s) or bush (s), and sometimes with very rancid lard it is enough to rub the tree trunks thoroughly so that the hares do not even touch them.

    Fish oil , naphthalene - these are also rejected by hares and will not eat bark from such foul-smelling plants. Avid gardeners even make a mixture of fat and naphthalene in a ratio of about seven to one and coat trunks and shoots with this composition.

    If you are an ardent fan of chemistry, we can advise you to purchase the drug " Carnofer " in the store. In the fall, they can process the entire garden. It is said that its smell neutralizes the sensitive receptors of hares, they do not even smell food.

    But let's get back to the lovers of everything environmentally friendly. Wood ash , if you have a lot of it, it can perform a dual role: both enrich the soil with potassium and protect it from hares. Peat powder can scare them away, especially if it is well flavored with kerosene (a liter per bucket of peat powder).

    Rustles and strange sounds …. Shy as a hare, they sometimes say so about one or the other. Why not use the fearfulness of a hare to a gardener? Now, for example, there are many cheap Chinese wind bells for sale that can be hung on trees. The wind will shake them, and the hares will be afraid. Although, to be honest, I personally don’t really believe in this method of scaring away hares. Please write in the comments if anyone managed to scare away the hare with such methods.

    Protective mesh around the tree trunk. © jesswateringcan31

    The sweetest way to . What could be nicer than a cat, especially a moderately well-fed, moderately affectionate one, and one that not only eats and sleeps, but also loves to run around in the snow and hunt. Such, for example, are Maine Coons, my favorite breed.

    They are hardly smaller than a hare, because they are quite large and their hunting instinct is highly developed. Maybe they won’t kill the hare, but they will definitely drive it away, and at the same time they will exterminate all rats and mice on the site. Yes, and the neighboring territories will also be cleaned, because the range of their adventures is sometimes huge.

    If the tree is already damaged

    If the tree is damaged and the bites are not round, then you need to make the simplest decoction of linden bark. In the spring, simply collect lime bark, grind it well and boil about half a bucket of lime bark filled to the very top with ice water for half an hour or a little more, then strain.

    As a result, you should get a mass similar to jelly, with which you lubricate the bites (if they are not all over the circle!). On top of the greased parts, it is best to apply ordinary wrapping paper, pulling it well, but not tying it. With the growth of the tree, it will simply tear and there will be no constrictions. For about two months, the makeshift bandage cannot be removed, then the wound should heal.

    A slightly more modern method that I learned about relatively recently is “polyethylene bandages”. Everything is simple here - the places of bites are wrapped with plastic wrap.

    Learn more