Always keep a black ring of soil around young trees for the following reasons: a) Grass will rob moisture and nutrients and cut growth rates by 50 – 70%; b) Weed whacking around trees strips off the bark, stunting and eventually killing the tree c) It is simply easier to mow around. The circle of black dirt should be a minimum diameter of 2’ – 3’ and should be maintained until the tree has a 4” – 5” caliper or larger. For shrubs, maintain the circle of soil for the life of the plant. Bark or stone mulch may be placed on top of the soil to help retain moisture and reduce weeds. Weed disks are also an affordable, organic, simple way to achieve the same results.