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Root pruning

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Bunton Guy, May 31, 2006.

  1. Bunton Guy

    Bunton Guy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,917

    Have multiple clients that we are having a hard time mowing around their very mature trees. The roots have grown above the ground atleast 6" to the point were the mower decks can't make it over the roots.

    1. Can I take a stump grinder to the roots above the ground then fill over with topsoil and seed?

    2. or should I just fill the area over with topsoil and seed the area?

    I would like to remove the roots as they are starting to crack the sidwalk and front porch footings.

    What do you guys do in this case? I have heard of root pruning but sure just how this works?
    These trees are atleast 20+ years old (or older) And from what I have read is that these surface roots are signs that the tree is having stability issues. Will pruning back these surface roots kill or harm the trees?:confused:
  2. Dirty Water

    Dirty Water LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,794

    What type of tree?

    Cutting those roots will most likely kill the tree.

    Covering the roots WILL kill the tree.
  3. richallseasons

    richallseasons LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 479

    why not get a few extra bucks because you have to use the string trimmer around the root areas and take more time.You go grinding those roots you might as well cut the trees down and grind the stumps because your gonna get the same results.
  4. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    Its a crap shoot. I have cut big 5"-6" diameter roots off of trees with little or no problems. I was always uneasy about doing it but the clients always want to put patios under trees and they always want them to be level.

    I have also cut roots and had corresponding branches or entire portions of the tree die back. I have never killed the whole tree from this. My experience with this work is with Olives, Mesquites, Palo Verdes, Ashs, and Pine trees.

    While pruning surface roots is technically root pruning around here it usually refers to pruning roots to reduce a root bound condition or an up heaving situation like under walls and sidewalks.

    Make clean cuts and put a little dusting sulfur to help dry up the cut and reduce moisture loss. Do not use pruning sealer. Fall or Winter would be a better time to do the work for the health of the tree.

    You can definitely cover the roots and re seed no problem. You can not safely cover the trunk of the tree with soil but roots yes. I am a certified arborist.
  5. freddyc

    freddyc LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 578

    Everyone on this forum continues to say that if you cut a big root or cover it with soil, you will kill the tree. I have done both and have not seen a tree die after > 15 years.

    I'm not saying that it can't happen, or that its a great practice (probably a crap shoot), but anyone that says "you will kill the tree" is just generalizing. It's not necessarily true in all cases.

    As far as stability of the tree, do you mean physical strength or the fact that it can't find water below the surface??
  6. Bunton Guy

    Bunton Guy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,917

    Roots generally grow beneath the soil so why would covering them with a 2" layer of topsoil hurt them? Im not covering the trunk just roots or that have been cut down. I wouldnt be cutting below the surface just enough to even out the ground.
  7. Henry

    Henry LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 548

    We try to create planting areas under trees with a lot of surface roots. We'll spread just enough topsoil over or between the roots to plant some hostas or other perennials, then mulch to where the roots taper off. There's no need for grass under a tree like that.
  8. Larry Davis

    Larry Davis LawnSite Member
    Messages: 116

    You never mentioned the type of tree, but from your description I'm betting it's a white pine. You'll never see a mature white pine without surface roots heading out in every direction. And, the older they get the worse the root situation gets. First ............. I personally would never cut any of these roots for a client. In Western North Carolina they have a reputation as a tree that goes down fairly easily in high winds. You cut any of those roots and the tree will be even more susceptable to going down and this could cause you some liability issues. Second ......... It's only my guess, but if you go to the time and expense of covering these roots with soil, I believe they will just gradually rise to the surface again. It's simply the nature of that particular tree.
  9. Bunton Guy

    Bunton Guy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,917

    Its not a pine I know that. Not quite 100% sure of what it is. Its some sort of hardwood type an oak im sure.

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