So you’ve planted a tree in your yard, but you aren’t sure how to take care of it. That’s a pretty common problem with home gardeners. Tree care is slightly different than your typical plant care. There is less day-to-day responsibility, but trees can certainly be finicky in their own way.
Take tree roots for example. Roots are what bring your tree the water and nutrients that it needs to survive, but despite the fact that a thriving tree will have a deep, solid foundation, not all roots grow in ways that are beneficial to the tree.
As crazy as that sounds, tree roots often have minds of their own and at times grow under (or into) parts of residential homes that can do much more harm than good. For instance, tree roots that sprout above ground or grow into the important drainage pipes of your house can do some serious property damage to your tree and leave it susceptible to disease or instability. Not to mention the damage that those roots could do to your home if left unchecked.
Root care and upkeep are important skills to learn for any homeowner. But if you’re new to gardening or are unsure of what you need to know to help your sapling grow and thrive, have no fear. At Mr. Tree, we know that tree roots can be a bit of a learning curve, but with a guiding hand, we’re sure that you’ll be a pro in no time.
We’ve also compiled a handy list of ways to keep your roots strong and healthy, so take a look and learn how to care for your tree and its roots!
Plan Before You Plant
Just like how you would never build a house in a parking lot or over a rapid waterfall, location for your tree and its roots are of the utmost importance. According to the Tchukki Andersen, Board Certified Master Arborist, CTSP, and staff arborist with the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), considering all of the risk factors is important before you plant. “Before you plant a new tree in your yard, you need to understand how a tree could damage your property and take appropriate measures to prevent that damage,” she said. Anderson explained that tree roots thicken as they grow and while soil that is close to the surface is better for your tree, roots that grow close to pavement or a solid driveway will be growing just below the solid surface, which can then cause problems.
“Most damage is found 6 feet or less from the tree since roots become smaller and less damaging the farther they are from the trunk,” she explained. Meaning that if you plant your tree too close to your driveway or patio you’ll be increasing the changes for your tree to experience damage and not grow to its full capacity. Or as Anderson explained, “That small sapling could become a large shade tree with roots spreading 30 or 40 feet outward from the trunk.”
Taking the time to carefully plan where your tree will grow and considering the permanent features that are around your tree will ensure a long and healthy lifespan in the future, even if it means sacrificing a little bit of your time in the present.
Cut Roots That Will Keep the Tree Healthy
It might seem counterintuitive, but cutting away at your tree’s roots is sometimes a good way to prevent intrusive roots from causing greater tree damage. According to The Tree Care Industry Association, the key to cutting your tree’s roots is to pick the right roots to cut and not go at it willy-nilly.
Cutting the wrong tree roots will weaken a tree’s ability to take in water and nutrients, which is dangerous if you live in a dry place or your home is experiencing a drought. And perhaps another important reason why cutting the wrong tree roots is a bad idea is that the roots are important to your tree’s integrity. If you cut a central root you are increasing the chances of your tree to topple. A bad risk to take if your trees are close to your home or other habitable structures.
It is also important not to grind roots down or remove them, as some landscapers might suggest. The reason for this is similar to the reasons why we cover cuts and scrapes on our own skin: if there is an opening in the barrier you are leaving it vulnerable to infection.
With trees, a hole in the bark or root system could leave your tree susceptible to infection from pathogens. A dead tree can look unsightly on your lawn and a sick tree can infect the other plant life around your home, which is something that no homeowner should risk.
However, there are a couple of good reasons why you should cut your tree’s roots. If you are going to cut the roots, the farther from the tree the better. You also want to choose a tree root that is smaller than two inches in diameter; there is less chance that you’ll be cutting a central root or doing severe damage. Or prune roots to a side or sinker roots (those are roots that are growing downward) whenever possible.
The best plan of action is to install physical roots guidelines and barriers to redirect roots to grow where they won’t be intrusive to driveways or sidewalks. If you already have an existing tree where you want to install pavement or tar, curve around your tree.
Keep Roots Covered
At Mr. Tree, we want to help you with all of your tree care needs, including the upkeep of its root system. We provide excellent service to our customers and all of our technicians are highly trained in the art of landscaping. We know that we can help you with any of your tree care needs, so why don’t you give us a call? We’d be happy to help.