cutting tree roots

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by yrdandgardenhandyman, Apr 14, 2005.

  1. yrdandgardenhandyman

    yrdandgardenhandyman LawnSite Senior Member
    from midwest
    Posts: 953

    I have a client who wants me to put landscape border stone and mulch, in a ring around some small trees. The stone she wants, would have to be dug in about 4 inches as she wants them at grass level for the mower so no trimming will be required. Approximately 8' tall, all of them. One is a maple, one is a Blue Spruce, one is a White Birch and one is an Ash. I probed around the base of the trees and all seemed ok to go except the Ash. There are roots very close to the surface. I mean a lot of them, radiating in all directions from the trunk. I would have to cut these roots at about 3 feet from the trunk to install the border. I mentioned my concern and she said "Don't worry about it. If the tree dies, it dies." My question is, what is the probable harm from cutting these roots? My second question, even if the tree might die and the customer says do it anyway, should I do it anyway?
     
  2. Rtom45

    Rtom45 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 456

    Sounds like a recipe for disaster, now or later. If client insists on the work, ask them to sign a release and specify that you advised against it. If the tree(s) doesn't die this season, it may blow over in a storm later on. An option might be to put in a larger circle so you aren't cutting surface roots.
     
  3. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,112

    well she's not making a whole lot of sense.. if she wants the stone at grass level,what's supposed to hold the mulch back around the trees?
    if you cant see them and they are not there to hold back mulch what's the point of using them at all?
    All of these trees have surface feeder roots and In my opinion it will do damage to all of them.
    Also you don't want to mulch very close to the trunks and if your only going out 3'and you leave the mulch properly a foot away from the trunks that leaves just 2'diameter of mulch so your not really doing anything to help the tree's as far as mulching goes because the root systems extent way beyond that.
    I would probably suggest a flatter stone and that you go at least 4' to 6' around the trees with the mulch lines(not including the 1' left away from trunk.Or AS above,have her sign something saying your not responsible for the loss of the tree's and have somebody wittness her sign it too.
     
  4. northwest lawn

    northwest lawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 196

    if the roots do get cut trim the tree enought to make up for what was lost with the root being cut. this keeps the tree in balance. the whole root to shoot ratio. tree should keep alive and kicking if you trim.
     
  5. Neal Wolbert

    Neal Wolbert LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 407

    I totally disagree with the last post. Cutting back the canopy will just reduce photosynthesis weakening the tree and cause more stress on the roots, not less. Anyone agree? Neal
     
  6. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,112

    I agree totaly .It will stress the tree even more.
     
  7. Coffeecraver

    Coffeecraver LawnSite Senior Member
    from VA.
    Posts: 793

    I also agree with Rtom45If client insists on the work, ask them to sign a release and specify that you advised against it. If the tree(s) doesn't die this season, it may blow over in a storm later on. An option might be to put in a larger circle so you aren't cutting surface roots.

    Roots typically will be found growing a distance of 1-3 times the height of the tree. The amount of damage a tree can suffer from root loss depends, in part, upon how close to the tree the cut is made. Severing one major root can cause the loss of 5-20% of the root system.The roots of a tree will extend far from the trunk and will be found mostly in the upper 6 to 10 inches of the soil.

    Another problem that may result from root loss is that the potential for the trees to fall over is increased. The roots play a critical role in anchoring a tree. If the major support roots are cut on one side of a tree, the tree may fall or blow over.

    Cutting large roots close to the trunk inflicts much
    more structural injury than cutting smaller roots near or
    beyond the drip line. Cutting roots on one side of a tree
    may lead to acute decline or death of only that half of the
    tree.
    Symptoms resulting from the cutting of roots are
    similar to symptoms produced by other types of site
    disturbance. There is a progressive decline of the tree.
    Early
    symptoms of decline include leaves becoming smaller
    in size, early fall coloration, premature defoliation, and
    dieback of twigs and progressively larger branches
    beginning in the upper crown and moving downward.
    Sucker growth may become more prolific on the trunk
    and larger branches. Decline usually progresses from
    the top to the bottom of the tree. Leaf or needle drop
    may begin within the canopy near the trunk and progress
    outward, indicating a stressed tree which may be
    suffering from a root disease or disorder. Despite
    therapeutic intervention, most trees affected by decline
    eventually die.
    Neal Wolbert is right on target with this answer.
    I totally disagree with the last post. Cutting back the canopy will just reduce photosynthesis weakening the tree and cause more stress on the roots, not less.

    If you build these rings and fill them with mulch you will be in fact raising the grade.
    Adding soil will produce near anaerobic
    conditions that often result in suffocation of the roots.
    The degree of suffocation is directly related to the depth
    of soil added.

    The correct answer is that this job should not be done.
    However if it is to be done the release form needs to be signed.

    If it is wrong ,and you know it is wrong, is it still worth the money?
     
  8. redoak77

    redoak77 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 291

    If u can, try to get ur hands on the Tree Services Magazine (Same people that do Turf) because they had a big section on this a couple of months ago and outlined all the major stuff
     
  9. Adamma Landscape Group

    Adamma Landscape Group LawnSite Member
    Posts: 88

    You are the contractor and the expert that is why the customer hired you. If you cut the roots and the tree dies the customer will sue you. When you get a project and the customers tries to tell you what to do and you know it is incorrect just walk away and do not sign the contract. If you do quality work you will get tons of work.
     
  10. northwest lawn

    northwest lawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 196

    my post came directly out of my arboriculture class so believe it or not its the truth.
     

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