Preventing Weed Whacker Plant-icide

We get a lot of care and maintenance questions here at the nursery but one of the most common questions we get is “why did my plant die?” or “I have had this tree in my yard for years and all of a sudden it died! Why?” Nine times out of ten the answer is simple: death by weed whacker.

A citrus tree that has fallen victim to a weed whacker.




Many homeowners as well as yard maintenance crews have a tendency to be a bit overzealous when it comes to weed whacking. The most common cause of established landscape plants failing is being girdled at the base by a weed whacker while trying to keep the weeds down around the plant. Most people don’t want to bother with pulling weeds by hand but this is at the expense of the health of their plants.

The base of a citrus that has been girdled by a weed whacker.


The follow up question we usually get is “what can I poison the weeds with so I don’t have to pull them?” but if you put any kind of herbicide at the root of your desired plant to kill the weeds around it, it is going to have a detrimental effect on your desired plant as well. Not to mention if you are using a chemical herbicide such as Round-Up, you will also be poisoning the soil, the groundwater and the resources of future generations.

Another girdled citrus, this one even had a plastic trunk protector!

Here at Seascapes we like to do things Regeneratively, which means taking the time to do things the right way instead of the easy way. So we have come up with a simple solution to prevent weed whacker death while also passively fertilizing your plants and adding organic matter to the soil, protecting resources for future generations.

Introducing the Tree Nest!

A young ulu tree in the nest!

Protective “nests” are a great way to use green waste from your yard (so that you don’t have to haul it to the dump) while also keeping your plants safe from weed whackers and adding organic matter to your soil, ultimately improving the health of both your plants and the land. It can be a bit more work up front but will save you a lot of time and expense down the line, not to mention having to replace plants and trees that die from girdling.

You can use almost any type of green waste but just watch out for plants that will regrow from a branch or cutting such as Ti plants or wedelia. The best things to use are branches from Legume trees like Rainbow shower trees, royal poincianas, monkey pod or albizia. You can also use fallen coconut palm fronds and mulched coconuts. “Chop and Drop” is a great technique when pruning, just place the pruned branches around the base of the plant. You can cut branches into smaller, more manageable pieces for a neater look or leave them big, which is messier but less work. The denser you make the nest, the more effective it will be against weeds.

If your yard has lots of wedelia or honohono grass you might still have to do some hand weeding to keep these vining weeds off your trees, but if you wet down your “nests” first you can also use a flame or torch weeder to burn the weeds away from the edges of the nest.

Planting around the edges of the nests is another great technique. Use “companion plants” like comfrey, pigeon pea, society garlic, perennial peanut or cilantro as a barrier between your lawn and the nests. These plants accumulate nutrients in the soil and help your plants grow, they also can be “chopped and dropped” and added to the nests.

If you have used this technique we would love to hear from you! Whether you have a success story or some words of caution let us know!

Aloha and happy gardening!

This article was written by Zoli, Senior Sales Associate and Landscape Designer at Seascapes Nursery.

One Response to Preventing Weed Whacker Plant-icide

  1. Wandalea Walker January 22, 2018 at 2:14 pm #

    This is so helpful. I have used lots of rocks after killing a few plants & now I will do Chop & Drop on some new areas. Great picture of Zoli!

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