How To Build a Tree Ring On a Slope | Tips & Tricks

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How to build a tree ring on a slope. Plus a few other tips and tricks you’ll want to know for a healthy tree.

After five years of turning this house into a home, the front yard was looking a little bare. Sure, our grass is nice. The kids run around and get lawn clippings all over their wet feet as we wash the cars in the driveway.

But it’s empty. It needs shade, shrubs, trees and defiantly some character.

My husband would disagree. To him adding anything is just one more obstacle for him to mow around. So what did we do?

We bought a tree.

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It really didn’t take much convincing before he said yes. Besides being a bit inconvenient to mow around, he seemed to be looking forward to a tree with a bit of autumn color to liven our New England souls, in the south.

But when it came to the tree ring and flower bed, we had very different ideas in mind. Not only did we have different ideas, the conversation came to a screeching halt when he wanted to built it into the hillside and I had zero idea of what he meant by that.

This is our own personal experience. Be sure to seek professional advise and always practice tool safety.

HOW TO BUILD A TREE RING ON A SLOPE

Materials

  • Concrete garden wall blocks (we used approximately 50)
  • Leveling sand (optional)
  • String or measuring tape

Tools

  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Gardening spade
  • Level
  • Brick chisel (optional)
  • Sledge hammer (optional)
Brick tree ring retaining wall on a small slope

Call 811 before you dig

Before you begin your project be sure to call 811 and have them mark any underground utility lines in the area. The call is quick and easy and within a few days someone will come by to spray (or flag) where the utilities are. This is a free service and necessary to make sure you’re not cutting through or digging too close to water lines, electrical, natural gas, internet ect.

Lay the brick foundation

Decide on the location, taking into account root growth and size of a fully mature tree. Roughly lay out the bricks to the desired size of the brick tree ring. Be sure to give the base of the tree plenty of room to grow along with additional room for any flowers or greenery for a tree ring flower bed.

Make an approximate circle for the tree ring.

How to plant a tree

  • Dig a hole 2-3 times bigger than the root ball
  • Remove tree from container and place in the hole, holding it at the base of the tree.
  • Make sure the tree is level by examining it from several angles.
  • Fill with dirt – just to the top of the root ball.
Plant the tree in the center.

Making a perfect circle

Once the tree is planted you’ll want to adjust the bricks to make a perfect circle. You can do this by using a measuring tape and measuring from the base of the tree to the bricks.

You can also use a similar method by attaching a string to the base of the tree and measuring around in the same manner.

Adjust the bricks using a measuring tape to make a perfect circle.

Start at the lowest point

Starting at the lowest point, dig out the grass and set the first brick, keeping it level as you do so. At this point you can choose to use leveling sand (best for larger projects) or with something as small as our tree ring, leftover soil from planting the tree.

Continue with this pattern, digging down and leveling out, until the last brick begins to disappear into the hillside.

Start at the lowest point and dig out the soil.
Use a level to keep each brick straight.

You can also gently tap the bricks with a sledge hammer to set them in place.

Continue with the next level, offsetting the bricks as you go.

Continue until the brick disappears into the hillside.

At some point you might need to use a brick chisel for a brick to fit into place. Gently chisel a portion of the brick away and continue with the next level.

Tree ring retaining wall on a slope with freshly planted flowers.

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Tips for a healthy tree

-Most trees have surface roots within the first 12 inches of the soil. When planting flowers and shrubs at the base of a tree, be sure to plant away from tree trunk to avoid damage to the tree’s roots.

-Do not pile mulch or soil at the base of the tree trunk as it can cause the tree to rot over time.

Tree ring flower bed

In addition to not planting too close to the tree’s base, you’ll also want to take into consideration the type of flowers you’ll be planting. With our young tree it provides very little shade, so we can get away with flowers and plants that call for full sun. However, as the tree grows it’ll provide more shade and we’ll need to switch to greenery that is more shade tolerant.

Three layers of bricks forming the tree ring base and flower garden.

Landscape fabric vs. No landscape fabric- Landscape fabric acts as a weed barrier. In our experience it works well in the beginning but over time weeds begin to grow through and tear the fabric as we weed the garden. You’ll also need to be careful with how much water can penetrate through the fabric as the tree will need all the water it can get, to thrive.

Tree ring on a slope with freshly planed flowers.

This tree ring and flower garden was perfect for an easy weekend DIY project. It may be a little bit of an obstacle to mow around but with the tree ring retaining wall built into the slope, it looks purposeful and adds a bit of character.

Over time this Autumn Blaze Maple tree will grow up to 50 feet tall, giving us great shade in the summer and beautiful foliage in the fall. The perfect medium size tree for a medium size front yard.

Best Wishes ~ Sara

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