Garden Life

Creative Solution For Tree Root Problems – A Floating “Green” Patio

Patio Finished

It’s a battle in my garden – the maple tree roots versus me. They are powerful and I am often stymied as I cannot dig in the soil due to the deep and twisted mess that lies right below the surface. When installing my gate arbor, the workers ended up cutting the cable television (on game day no less) for the entire neighborhood because they had to use a power saw to get through the danged roots.Patio area before I began project

Gardeners often fight a lengthy battle with tree roots like I have, but perhaps there’s an interesting – and green – solution – – float a patio on top of the roots.

Below is a series of pictures that show how I used reclaimed sand, bricks, and stone (which would have gone into the landfill) to build a patio over the maple tree root mess I have in the back yard garden. If you wanted something more permanent, you could certainly make a cement patio. However, I felt a “floating” patio would work better for this situation as roots grow over the years and I might want to add to the patio as well.


Step One – Dig a six to eight inch trench around the area you plan to put your patio. This will allow standing water to drain off of your patio.

Patio Beginning B

Step Two – Cover with a permeable cloth cover of some kind which will allow water to drain through, but prevent worms from coming through and mixing the rock base.

Patio Step 2

Step Three – Arrange reclaimed material of all types in an attractive pattern on top of the fabric.

Patio Step 3Patio Step 4

Step Four – Fill with a base of sand and rough gravel to help steady the reclaimed materials. I went to a big box store and bought all the broken bags of sand and rocks at a discounted price.

Patio Step 5

Step Five (no picture for this step) – Pour pea gravel over the top – I also used old half-empty bags from one of the big box home stores which I bought for super-cheap. The gravel makes the patio “less firm” in some ways, but it is quaint and a creative way to reuse materials that would have been thrown away.

I love the sustainable patio and maintenance is simply blowing the leaves off the top of the patio in both the spring and summer plus pulling any weeds that seed themselves from the top. It has been up now for several years and is very easy to take care of.

What do you think? Want to try building a green garden solution and save the landfill at the same time?

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    garden girl
    May 17, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Looks wonderful Shawna – very creative use of reclaimed items. I feel your pain dealing with maple roots. Our entire shade garden is planted in them. It has taken years for it to become established – not a particularly hospitable environment, but the plants are toughing it out, being good sports, and finally growing happily. The 'third year they leap' rule of thumb definitely doesn't apply to plants in the root zone of maple trees.

  • Reply
    Shawna Lee Coronado
    May 17, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    I've noticed the same thing about the 'third year they leap' rule. In fact, they often recede during that time. I'm always planting MORE under the maples to keep it a vibrant area. This floating patio is a definite solution. Love it!

  • Reply
    Less is More
    August 23, 2010 at 4:47 am

    nice and impressive floating patio. i think i needs some garden accessories like wind spinner and wind chimes to add flavor to your patio. good work

  • Reply
    Oh No, The Patio « Oh What A Beautiful Garden – Chicagoland
    April 21, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    […] can see her completed project at I’m sure Shawna, the consummate green girl, would be so proud of us for reclaiming the bricks […]

  • Reply
    Connie Stennett
    May 31, 2014 at 10:04 am

    It is beautiful. Personally, I’d want a patio to function as a patio with maybe a table and some chairs, but the wide spaces between bricks might not be condusive to that. Besides that, just knowing me…I would trip. I could see this as a beautiful focus to place potted flowers around to compliment the design. It is very artsy, creative, and unique. I love unique! :)

    • Reply
      Connie Stennett
      May 31, 2014 at 10:07 am

      I see that you did place outdoor furniture on your patio. Is it level and stable?

  • Reply
    May 31, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    The house I moved into as a teenager had a similar version of this in the backyard where the previous owners laid down some kind of plastic sheeting, bordered by railroad ties, and covered in pea gravel for a kids’ play area (swing set, jungle gym, etc.). However, after several years, grass *did* try to grow back through it, and because of the gravel it became impossible to mow. I suggest if you are to do this to have a plan for the area later that does not include mowing. Once that permeable layer starts to allow growth through, remove/replace it asap! Also, there are vinegar solutions that can keep the weeds at bay for awhile.

  • Leave a Reply