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Here’s How To Deal With Surface Roots

Do you have large trees on your property? Are you experiencing surface rooting? Surface roots can pose several challenges and knowing how to properly deal with them is important.  

What Causes Surface Roots?

  • Some trees naturally have shallow roots (willow, aspen, pin oak, beech), and because of this, and their size, surface roots are common.
  • It is not uncommon for roots to grow wide and shallow. In fact, most tree root systems can be found in the top 18 inches of soil. When roots right below the surface get big enough, they can break through.
  • Surface roots are most common in compacted soil situations, or in soils with a heavy clay concentration.
  • Roots need oxygen to survive. In tight soil situations, roots may grow more shallowly to reach the oxygen they need (this is their way of adapting to their environment to survive).
  • Soil erosion can also contribute to the exposure of surface roots. 

surface root damages and preventionSome Common Concerns That Surface Roots May Pose Are:

  1. Maintaining a nice level lawn becomes challenging
  2. Can be a tripping hazard
  3. Makes mowing hard and can ruin your mowing machinery
  4. Can ruin sidewalks, driveways, and even potentially damage foundations

So, What Can You Do About Surface Roots?

  • Add top soil mix and seed – Put down about 2-inches of a 50-50 topsoil mix with shade-tolerant grass seed.
  • Plant a drought tolerant groundcover – Planting a ground cover instead of grass can eliminate the need to mow around the tree/over the surface roots.
  • Mulch – Applying about 4-inches of mulch is an ideal way to deal with your surface rooting issues. Mulch/wood chips will help to level out the area while keeping the roots cool and moist, which allows oxygen flow to the root system.
  • Avoid planting trees prone to surface rooting – As mentioned above, some trees are more prone to developing surface roots than others. Try to avoid planting these trees, especially if your soil conditions are the perfect breeding grounds for surface rooting.

surface root damages and removalWhat NOT To Do With Your Surface Roots:

  • Do NOT cut big roots – Cutting large roots can lead to disease, and an easy access point for pests. Additionally, cutting a trees root system can deprive it of adequate nutrients it needs to survive, which could lead to a weakened tree. A large weakened tree can lead to storm damage, or dangerous breaking. If this is a tree that you love, cutting of its key nutrient supply line can also lead to killing it (in severe cases).

Some Trees With Deep Root Systems To Consider:

  1. Black Gum
  2. Hickory
  3. Oak
  4. Yellowwood
  5. Black Cypress

The best ways to avoid future surface root issues is to plant your tree at the right depth, give it enough room to grow, be mindful of where you are planting the tree in relation to structures (driveway, foundation, etc.), plant groundcover and mulch to help prevent soil erosion and keep the soil moist, and properly care for the tree.

Red Cedar’s trained team can help to determine which trees are best suited for your specific yard/soil and determine where the best spot for planting is. If your existing trees have surface roots that are interfering with your lawn, driveway, or creating a tripping hazard in your back yard, we can offer suggestions and solutions specific to your property. Contact Red Cedar today for your free consultation!