View Full Version : What do you do w/above ground oak tree roots?

05-22-2002, 04:35 PM
There are a few trees in several of my yards that are quite old. Some of these trees are knotty pine,red oak, dogwood, maple as well as others. I was wondering the other day if there is a good method of covering the emerging roots so I'm not having to bump all over them or even skin them with the blades. I have been having to use the trimmer on occassion to prevent scalping a root but was wondering if anybody else has covered them with good soil and overseeded or is this not that big of a deal to most.

05-22-2002, 04:52 PM
Tell the lady, they gotta go!!!!!!


05-22-2002, 05:22 PM
I think most people would look at me like I was crazy. I know of a few that really do need to come down as they are leaning way over (cedars). But I couldn't imagine cutting down a 50 (or more) year old oak tree especially one of mine.

05-22-2002, 05:38 PM
My husky 61 with 24" bar has no feelings. LOL

05-22-2002, 05:38 PM
We had a forester here in town tell us to cover the root system with mulch and/or make a bed for flowers around the tree and put in about 6" of top soil. Makes a nice flower garden for the customer and you can mow and weedeat around that safely. Don't know how far your roots go out from tree or how many trees your are talking about, but this seems to be a nice solution for us and some of our customers. Yes, and some of customers have had to take out dead trees. Here in Florida, you need a permit to remove an oak tree that is over so many inches in diameter unless you can prove that it is dying. We had to take digital pictures of one that we removed from behind a customer's house. County said to do it to cover our rear ends!

Hope this helps a little.

05-22-2002, 10:12 PM
I would not cover the exposed roots of the tree with top soil. Sometime it is natural for trees to grow with some of its roots exposed on top of ground. I tried to cover the roots with top soil but a few years later some of the roots came back to top of ground. So I decide to leave it the way it is because I think that is the natural way of trees to grow.

So what I do when mowing over them is to raise the deck all the way up when driving over it. If the roots is really big that mower could chip it off with deck all the way up, I just drive around it and trim around the roots later.

robert payer
05-22-2002, 11:05 PM
WXMN6, Liked your thought of how that is just the natural way that they grow. We are all to busy trying to control everything. We have been conditioned that every thing and condition is fixable. Consumer products and marketing have created a quick fix, buy it reasoning. Who was here first us or the trees? Who will be here after us if we leave them alone? These were just some thought. Please do not be offeneded any one. Just a wake up call to our selves. I know people hire us to solve these problems and we should.

a conservative speaking like a liberal,

Tony Harrell
05-23-2002, 07:09 AM
I was wondering if the roots coming to the surface might be a sign of soil compaction, or possibly searchng for water? I have 3 very old, very large maples that are exactly the way you described. I use the trimmer around them for now, but am going to install a 2-3" mulch bed and annuals and maybe some azaleas. I was thinking of renting a bededger to cut some of the smaller outlying roots but was told that maples are shallow rooted and it would make the tree unstable. I'm planning on edging a very large pattern around every tree and then install the ground cover. One is on a VERY steep slope and I may have to use something like monkey grass to cover the ground. Anybody have any ideas or suggestions?

05-23-2002, 08:17 AM
Never cover exposed roots with soil. To do so will cause certain decline in the health of the tree. It wont become evident for 3-5 years and by then it will be too late. If the roots that are above ground are in danger of damage from mowing or trimming, cover with 2-3 in. of organic mulch. The mulch will allow the roots to breath. Remulch each year as needed, but not too deep.

05-23-2002, 08:25 AM
Different trees, different soils, different parts of the country and different terrain. Probably best to listen to someone in your own part of the country about advice on this. Only know what we've been told about Florida and it seems to work well for our customers.

Customers with big, prestige homes don't want root systems showing under their grandfather oak in the front yard. Several people we know have had flower beds with top soil around them and they have thrived just fine for years and years and years.

But, like I said -- there may be a vast difference between Florida and where you are working. We have lots of loose sand and I think the top soil actually helps the trees (keeps in the nutrients). Drainage is important too! I wouldn't put plastic down under the flower bed.

Licensed forester with largest local tree nursery told us about this idea. Maybe you could check with someone like that in your locale.

Mulch has been wonderful for our Southern Magnolia tree. The mulch idea is really a nice one and it is very pretty too!


05-23-2002, 08:32 AM
Our urban landscapes are a constant contradiction. Trees and turf do not naturally grow together in the same environment for this and other reasons.

A similar debate is had when the quality of turf is not as expected due to competition with surrounding trees. The customer must decide what the priorities are for their yard... trees or turf. If they place a higher value on the trees than turf, the ideal thing to do would be to make a bed around the trees where the majority of the surface roots are located. Some roots may be sacrificed further out from the tree or beyond the drip line.

The problem with heaping soil on roots, as previously mentioned, is that you'll suffocate the roots. Obviously trees don't have pulminary systems, therefore they can't stick their noses above water to breath. All parts of the tree must breath, including the roots. Some trees are genetically predsiposed to shallow roots, such as Silver Maples and Pin Oaks. Their natural habitat is swampy land. Since the soil does not have much oxygen in it, the roots thrive on the surface.

A common misconception about trees is that they will "seek" out oxygen or water. They do not. They simply grow where ideal conditions exist - perhaps in a drain pipe. They don't hone in on the drain pipe, the roots simply found the pipe and survived or thrived because they were fed. Similar is true with surface roots. Often shallow watering of a lawn will promote a denser set of surface roots. THis process occurs over the years. Once you have the roots, you can't encourage them to move along and go somewhere else... they're there to stay.

This brings you back to what to do about them... either remove the tree or live with them. Preferably create a bed. If you want to plant ground cover, perennials, etc. under a tree, you can add soil, but you must be very careful. 1" a year or less of an organic mix is okay. But beware, you'll more than likely create a fibrous root structure in the bed over time as you water and create an ideal envrionment for the roots.

Consult with an arborist or tree health care expert about specific site conditions and specific trees and their tolerances for disturbances. We'll take some risks around silver or red maples, but are very leary around beech tress for example.

05-23-2002, 09:17 AM
not answering just noting they are right about not covering . these some pretty
sharp lcos here.

05-23-2002, 09:20 AM
Lawnlad is on target. My comments were going to be similar, but no where near as good as Lawnlads. So I say to everyone, read the above post again. :)

05-23-2002, 11:14 AM
I have a doctor that I take care of that has several of these type of trees with large roots that had surface. A tree surgeon came out, and did a "rootectomy". He cut all the surface roots out from all these trees, I then patched the grooves wtith top soil and seed, and these trees have been doing great for ten years, now. He said many services use a stump grinder to do this as well. My first thought was, "Won't it harm the tree?" He said absolutely not, and that the majority of the feeding comes from the deeper roots around the drip edge. He said this is common practice on ALL trees with resurfacing roots. It's strange. Removing them is safe, covering them is not. I believe alot of it has to do with the suffocation and potential for root rot. Once the rotting starts to occur, it spreads. Let's contact another tree surgeon so we know for sure. I'll be out by another arborist's business, today.

05-23-2002, 11:31 AM
Great advice guys; I really appreciate it. I had read on an older thread about the negatives of covering root structures so I thought I would just ask the question and see what you guys had to say. I would simply raise my deck and go over the roots but I run a fixed deck Surfer so it would be just as fast and look better if I just continue to go around them and use the trimmer to cut the grass between the roots. Most of your nicer yards around this area have mulch beds around all of their trees but I really prefer the look of nice turf coming right up to the tree. I'm learning that unless the trees stay pruned well (especially the lower limbs) the grass around the roots don't get enough sunlight and you still have the roots to work around as well.

Thanks Again for all the helpful advice.

Just read your post Runner-that would sound great depending on the cost. Would love an idea of how much this type of procedure costs.