Tree Base Flower Box

7 Materials
2 Hours

We have a cute little Japanese Maple tree on our front lawn. I love the tree – but do not love playing twister with it, while I’m mowing the grass around it. LOL

Note: In order to give the tree plenty of oxygen, I kept the soil level very low (3/4") and didn't pack it in around the trunk. If you want to try this idea, make sure to take these precautions to keep your tree healthy.

So I decided to make a shallow planter box around it. I picked up two 8-foot 3.5 x 3.5” pressure treated garden ties.  

Garden ties

Then I cut them both in half, to make a 4 x 4’ box.

I laid the four pieces of wood around the tree and measured from the tree trunk to the box on all four sides to make sure the box was centered. Then I dug up all the weeds and trimmed the grass as short as possible inside the box.  

Then I screwed the wood together using 5" deck screws - two screws on each corner.

I placed cardboard on the ground to kill the grass. I removed all the tape, stickers and labels from the boxes to make sure I wasn’t burying anything environmentally unfriendly. The cardboard will break down fairly quickly.

I filled the box with soil. I kept is shallow and fluffy because I didn’t want it to be too deep or heavy over the tree roots.  

Update: After receiving feedback from an experienced horticulturist in the "questions" section below I removed some of the soil - down to 3/4". I also pulled the soil away from the tree trunk - there's basically just a sprinkle near the trunk now - enough to cover the cardboard.

The two cut ends of wood that were visible (the other two were inside and not visible) I stained with provincial gel stain, applied with a cloth.

Then I added a few flowers to the box. I decided to just plant a few things this year, so the cardboard boxes will get lots of moisture and break down faster. But I’ll add a few more perennials next summer. 

I will keep a close eye on the tree to make sure there are no ill effects. But the local garden center staff assures me this shallow bed will not damage my cute little tree. 

And here it is! It will be so nice not having to get into pretzel positions while I’m cutting the grass!

After learning that I shouldn't put soil too close to the trunk I relocated the sweet william flowers that I had planted up against the trunk. I love the way it looked - but I love the tree more and want to ensure it remains healthy!

Sweet William perennials

And this is how it looked after I removed some of the soil and relocated the flowers I had planted up against the trunk. I think it still looks very pretty. And it still serves the exact same purpose I built it for - easier mowing around the tree. :)

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 13 questions
  • Betty
    on Jun 24, 2020

    What kind of tree is that

  • Lynn Evans
    Lynn Evans
    on Jun 24, 2020

    You need to start planting shade lover plants like hosta is a good choice. For next year that area will be shaded

    • Valerie Burge
      Valerie Burge
      on Jun 26, 2020

      I've spent the last six years digging up hostas. LOL they get really big and choke out everything around it. They killed my beautiful rose.

  • Virginia Boyer
    Virginia Boyer
    on Jun 26, 2020

    Is 3/4 inch of soil enough to plant flowers? Seems pretty shallow.

    • Valerie Burge
      Valerie Burge
      on Jun 27, 2020

      Not for the plants I had in there. I had mounded dirt around the 2 remaining begonias but they were starting to dry out so I moved them to another planter. Once the grass dies and I remove the cardboard I can plant flowers again - although I'll go with ground cover type flowers next time.

Join the conversation

4 of 176 comments
  • Elaine Decker
    Elaine Decker
    on Jul 17, 2020

    So...the trunk gets no air. If you don't like it, dig her up...people pay GOOD

    money for those trees ❤ if it's just easier to mow, remove mulch(super over-rated decor) dig a hole around her and let the tree adapt, your tree will die

  • Terry
    on Oct 2, 2020

    It's a great idea that I am going to use in my yard around my Magnolia. I also wouldn't mind seeing you playing twister around the tree if you were my neighbor ;) Thanks for a great idea. Terry.

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