Surfacing of Tree Roots
by Karen Weiland, Advanced Master Gardener
I’m sure all of you have witnessed, at one time or another, the buckling of concrete sidewalks and paved driveways due to roots from a nearby tree. Tree roots will also sometimes surface in lawns, causing a nuisance when trying to mow the grass.
There a several reasons why roots grow through to the surface, one being that some tree species are just more naturally prone to growing this way than others. Also, the older a tree gets, the more likely it is to have roots that surface. Along with the tree growing in girth over a number of years, so do the roots. Some of the roots do grow deep for stability and to find moisture, but some of them only grow about four to eight inches deep. There are times when roots will be visible due to erosion of the soil or if the soil it was planted in has been compacted, it will lead to shallower growing roots.
It is not recommended to cut off or prune visible tree roots as this could have a detrimental effect to the tree. Instead, try to work with the tree and its’ behavior. Understandably, this may not be feasible when working with buckling concrete, but if roots are surfacing in a lawn, there are steps that can be taken to make both you and the tree happy.
A temporary solution would be to apply a shallow layer of soil over the root and plant grass seed in the new soil. However, as the tree grows so will the root and after a number of years will likely resurface. A more lasting solution would be to remove the grass and relandscape the area by planting a groundcover, that will not need mowing, in its place. The grass can also be replaced with a covering of mulch.
As always, Happy Gardening!
More information about gardening and related subjects can be found online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs. The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.
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