How to Remove Tree Roots from Lawn [Without Killing the Tree]

Published on November 1, 2023

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If you have trees in your yard, you’ve likely dealt with pesky tree roots creeping into your lawn and creating lumps and bumps in the grass. While trees provide wonderful shade and curb appeal, their spreading roots can wreak havoc on your lawn.

The good news is with some strategic digging and cutting, you can remove those troublesome roots without harming the tree. 

So, how to remove tree roots from lawn? To remove tree roots from your lawn without harming the tree, cut a trench around the root zone, sever and extract small roots within the trench, drill and cut larger roots, replace the soil, improve drainage, and install a root barrier to protect against future invasion.

Here’s more tips on how to nip the problem in the bud (tree pun intended!).

Step 1: Locate the Roots

Is it OK to remove tree roots from lawn? Yes! But before you start hacking away, you need to find out where the roots are. Examine your lawn to spot any raised areas or depressions – those are signs of roots underneath. You can also use a probe, like a thin screwdriver, to poke around in the soil. When you hit a root, the probe will stop moving easily, and you’ll feel resistance.

Make sure to probe deeply – large tree roots can grow over 2 feet down. Mark areas where you find roots so you know where to dig.

Step 2: Cut a Trench Around the Root Zone

Now comes the fun part. Time to get digging! What is the best tool to remove tree roots? Use a flat shovel to cut a trench around the marked root area, about 2-3 feet from the trunk. Dig the trench about 6 inches wide and 2 feet deep.

This creates a barrier to prevent new roots from invading your lawn. Think of it like building a mini-moat around your castle to fend off enemies. Except in this case, the enemies are roots, not medieval invaders.

Step 3: Expose and Remove Small Roots

With the trench dug, you can now start exposing and severing the small feeder roots. Use your probe or a hand trowel to gently uncover shallow roots within the trench. Use loppers, pruners, or a saw to cut the roots – just be sure not to snap or tear them, as that can damage the tree.

Cleanly cut roots can be removed. Follow each root as far as possible and remove it back to the trench line. Take your time and be meticulous to get out as much as you can.

Step 4: Drill and Cut Larger Roots

For thick roots over 1 inch diameter, you’ll need to take an extra step. Use a drill to bore holes through the root, then use a saw to cut between the holes. This helps sever the root without shattering it.

Drill holes about 6 inches apart and cut out those sections. Again, follow the root as far as the trench and remove everything back to the line. This takes patience, but it’s worth it for healthy lawn and tree.

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Step 5: How to Remove Tree Roots from Lawn? Replace Soil and Improve Drainage

With the roots gone, replace the soil and tamp it down firmly. Water well to settle it further. Adding a few inches of fresh topsoil will give grass a boost, too.

Improve drainage by grading the soil to slope slightly away from the tree. Aerate compacted areas and fill in low spots. This encourages water to flow away from the root zone.

Step 6: Install a Root Barrier (Optional)

For recurring root problems, install a permanent subsurface root barrier around the perimeter of the root trench. Plastic, metal or woven fabric barriers deflect roots down and away from your lawn.

Barriers should be at least 30 inches deep to be effective. This optional step provides enhanced protection from regenerating roots.

Maintain Your Moat

Your root trench is like a protective moat that needs occasional maintenance. Expect to redo it every 3-5 years as roots regrow. Spot treat any new invasions quickly to keep your lawn pristine.

A yearly application of copper sulfate around the root zone may help deter future root growth. Be sure to water, fertilize, and aerate your lawn regularly for lush, healthy grass that can resist root encroachment.

Know When to Call a Professional

While DIY root removal is possible in many cases, some situations call for professional help:

  • Large established trees with extensive root systems
  • Roots damaging pavement, foundations, or sewer pipes
  • Concerns about tree stability or health

Arborists have specialized tools and expertise to handle extensive root pruning around mature trees or tricky removal jobs near structures. Their services are worth the investment for valuable heirloom trees.

how to remove tree roots from lawn

Be Kind to Your Tree

While hacking away at roots in your lawn, don’t forget the tree’s needs, too. Limit pruning to the minimum amount necessary and avoid damaging the main buttress roots near the trunk.

Leave as much of the root system intact as possible for the tree’s health. And don’t worry – you aren’t going to kill a mature tree by carefully removing some of its small feeding roots. Just don’t get carried away and go root crazy!

Alternative Solutions for Peaceful Coexistence

If you decide total root removal is too extreme, consider alternatives like:

  • Mulching over shallow roots to avoid mower damage
  • Using a shade-tolerant grass like fescue
  • Accepting some root lumpiness as character!

Sometimes, you just have to admit you’ll never entirely kicked those roots out of the yard. The tree was there first, after all! With a bit of flexibility, you can usually find a way to coexist happily.


I hope these tips help you banish pesky tree roots from your lawn or at least reach a root détente. With care for both trees and turf, you can maintain a lush, healthy lawn without extreme root removal. And you can rest easy knowing your yard is in harmony. Well, until the leaves start falling anyway…

So sharpen your shovel, grab your loppers, and get ready to declare battle on those roots! Just don’t get root rage and go overboard. With some strategic digging and cutting, you’ll restore order and give your grass room to grow.

Your lawn and trees will thank you for finding that delicate balance between lush lawn and healthy roots. And you’ll be thankful for not having to trip over underground obstacles next time you push the mower.


About Springfield Tree Trimming & Removal Service

Springfield Tree Trimming & Removal Service has over 20+ years of experience providing expert tree care and removal. Our certified arborists can safely remove problem roots from your lawn without harming your trees. For professional root removal or any tree service need, call our team today at (217) 302-9494.

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