Arboricultural Services of Northcoast Tree Care - Root Care

If a tree grows up in a place that isn’t altered during its life, it usually does not need any root care.   Trees tend to adapt to the amount of water and other materials needed for growth that are available at any given site.   This is not saying that all sites will make large, healthy trees.  It simply means that a tree will reflect the growing capacity of the site.   Some trees may be stunted or not live very long.

When changes occur to the site a tree is growing on, then tree health may be affected.  Roots are easily severed or indirectly injured.  Although we can’t always see the injury, it is usually expressed in the crown of the tree.  The following treatments may help to minimize root injury or improve the root environment.

1. Root Pruning
When it is necessary to remove soil in the root area, either by grading or trenching, roots can be exposed and carefully pruned.  This requires simple, manual labor combined with a basic understanding of how roots grow.  It is always best to assess the potential for injury and long-term consequences prior to root disturbance.

2. Mulching
When the annual deposition and decomposition of tree “litter” (leaves, twigs, etc.) is not allowed under a tree, health will usually suffer.  Restoring this layer is fairly simple and is perhaps the single most important treatment for maintaining good health.  What comes from the tree can be supplemented with a variety of materials.  Tree chips are one of the least expensive products to use.

3. Irrigation
Supplemental water is usually necessary for young trees.  It may also be helpful in times of drought.  In other situations, irrigation may be detrimental to tree health.  Changing the water supply to a tree should be preceded by an inspection and evaluation.

4. Fertilization
This treatment should always be based on real need.  In general, most sites have adequate amounts of soil minerals to support tree growth.  Exceptions may be where a site has had the topsoil removed, as is common for building construction.  Recently planted trees may also need supplementation.   Recommendations for fertilizer applications are made per tree and its site. 

5. Aeration
Any activity that decreases the ability of the soil to breath can cause tree health to suffer.   Construction equipment, vehicles and lots of foot traffic all contribute to compacted soil.  Some sites also have subsurface obstacles, such as a clay pan. Most surface problems can be alleviated by a good mulching program.  Other situations may require penetrating tools or equipment. 

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