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This Norway spruce's roots have always been on top of the ground. The soil it is growing on is very hard white dry soil with a layer of decayed needles on top. It has been growing fine so far, but would it be healthier if I covered all the exposed roots with topsoil? I do not know if this would harm the tree.

Edit: I added five wheelbarrow loads of dirt. Can I grow grass there?

  • 3
    First, do no harm... if you don't get a solid answer, don't do it. A tree is hard to replace. Lots of plants are harmed if you bury the roots - but I've no idea whether a Norway spruce is one of them. Given where it's from, and given the exposed roots that are common in the heavily glaciated White Mountains of my state (NH), I'd guess that they like it like that.
    – Ed Staub
    Dec 23 '11 at 18:58

This kind of root growth is typical of soils that are thin or heavily compacted from foot traffic. If people walk over the area on a regular basis then the air pockets get squeezed out of the soil and the flow of water and gas exchange is reduced. If the compaction is due to foot traffic it would be better to stop the foot traffic.

Either way you can't go wrong from top dressing with a very thin layer of soil. Most tree roots are within 6" of the surface. If you top dress too much you make things worse. A little bit of compost/soil/mulch will improve the retention of water and soil quality.

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