How To Prevent Damaging Tree Roots

Massive established trees may look plenty strong, but as a gardener you need to be cautious around them. Although they appear able to overcome any threat, a simple mistake you make while gardening around a tree may be the sudden strike that could kill it.

Focus On The Tree Roots

The most important part of a tree is the roots. The root structure anchors the tree in place so it can’t be brought down by extreme winds and storms. They also deliver oxygen, water and nutrients that trees need to survive. The roots also discharge chemicals into the soil that protect the tree against diseases and pests.

To assure a healthy tree, a gardener needs to assure that its roots are and remain healthy.

The length of the tree roots depends on the specie of tree. Beech, cherry, plum, dogwood, magnolia, and maple have shallow roots that grow laterally along or just below the surface. White oak, sweet gum, hickory, and certain kinds of pine trees have deep, vertical roots.

The healthy growth of the tree roots depends on whether the area in which the tree is growing is free of any natural things that could harm them. Rocks, compacted soil, and a high water table can stunt the growth of roots.

A gardener who is knowledgeable about how the root system grows has a leg up on others who may not.

Knowing root behavior can help you make proper choices that keep a tree healthy. For example, when surveying your property for locations to plant trees, no doubt you will select a site or two that may be close to a sidewalk or structure. Another site you select may be near underground structures including sewer and septic systems. Trees that have roots that grows laterally and just below the surface will not survive in these sites.

If you know the root growing behavior of your trees, then you’ll know which tree can be planted near the house or sidewalk and by sewer and septic systems. Trees with deep, vertical roots could prove ideal.

Knowing the tree’s root habits can also affect whether you should install plants near a tree. Under some circumstances, placing plants near a tree can cause it considerable damage or even death.

One way to study root systems of trees is to visit a forest. When you walk among the trees, observe the forest floor. You’ll find that plants don’t grow around some trees, but do grow near others. A tree’s canopy may be too dense for sunlight to get through, making it impossible for certain plants to grow under it. And a tree’s need for water can choke off a plant’s ability to get water. So, plants that are too close to trees with high water needs or have dense canopies won’t survive. It’s a lesson that you should take to heart when you are deciding whether or not to place plants near your trees.

Then there are trees that have roots and barks that are sensitive to harm. For example, a number of shade and ornamental trees not only feature shallow, lateral roots. Their trunks and roots may be susceptible to damage. Using trowels and spades while installing plants near them can cause damage due to cutting or digging. This can result in the slow death and decay of shade trees. Cut roots cannot absorb nutrients and water and leave trees vulnerable to pests and diseases.

Damaged Bark And Trunks Leaves Trees Vulnerable

Assuring that a tree is healthy starts with the tree roots.
(Source: Photo by Daniel Watson from Pexels

Cut bark and trunk can also cause damage to trees. Such injuries can occur when you place plants too near. The cutting, digging and piling up of soil or mulch around the base of a tree while planting can leave trees vulnerable to pests and diseases, and cause abnormal root growth that leads to a restrained trunk.

Arborists suggest that you should not perform any activity that would require cutting or digging, berming of soil or mulching around the base of a tree. They also recommend that you place native, drought resistant, shade plants around or near trees.

If you want to place plants near trees, plant small seedlings, plugs, bulbs or plants with small root systems. Use a small hand trowel or garden knife and limit the digging as much as possible.


About Robert Janis

Written by Robert Janis for LawnEq - Your specialists for Lawn Mower Parts and Small Engine Parts. We offer genuine premium OEM parts for Land Pride, Toro and many more dependable manufacturers.