Dogwood trees are known for their dense hardwood timber once prized for use in golf club heads, but the bark covering the trunk is actually quite delicate and easily damaged, according to the University of Kentucky. The tree is also very shallow-rooted. In combination, these characteristics call for minimizing or eliminating all manner of rough foot traffic, climbing and equipment activity from around the tree. Maintaining a healthy and complete bark coating intact requires a bit of careful hand-gardening and the discipline to admire this beautiful tree from a distance.
Halt the use of string trimmers, weed whackers or edging tools within roughly 5 feet of the trunk of your dogwood tree to prevent cuts, bark stripping and dings. While 5 feet may seem like a wide margin, one inattentive turn with a long-handled tool can permanently damage the bark and restrict the flow of water and nutrients up the tree through the wounded tissue.
Refrain from running your lawn mower over grass growing within 5 feet of your dogwood tree trunk. Stop the mower when entering this doughnut-shaped zone around the trunk and pick up a pair of manual lawn shears. Trim the grass within the no-mow zone to the desired length that matches the surrounding grass blades. Hold the shears perpendicular to the blades of grass and parallel with the trunk to prevent accidentally dinging or gouging the trunk with the pruning blades.
Lay down a doughnut-shaped ring of organic mulch, such as shredded bark, from the trunk extending outward 3 to 5 feet. This mulch will serve as a guideline to keep people and yard tools away from the trunk area. Mulch will also preserve soil moisture and keep competitive weeds down, both helpful to dogwood trees.
Refrain from hitting the bark with the garden hose stream when irrigating your dogwood. A strong stream of water from a hose or a sprayer attachment can easily lift small and even large swaths of bark from the trunk. Water low on the ground, a foot or more away from the trunk and out to the drip line of the tree.