Diagnosing Root Problems in Your Trees
The roots of a tree are vitally important to a tree’s health and well-being. It’s through their roots that trees obtain their oxygen, water and minerals from the surrounding soil. When the roots are disrupted, whether through disease, poor planting or accidental trauma, it can have serious consequences for the tree. If you are serious about tree care, it is well worth keeping a close eye out for any sign of problems.
Where to Look for Problems
Tree roots can expand for substantial distances beneath the ground, meaning that the cause of the problem is not always in the immediate vicinity. As such, the surrounding grounds will likely need maintenance and protection to avoid root problems.
The following method for determining the rough area of root coverage that may need protection:
- Measure the circumference of the tree approximately 4.5 feet (135cm) off the ground in inches.
- Halve this measurement.
- The resulting number is the distance (in feet) around the tree that will need some form of protection to prevent damage or disease in the roots.
Symptoms of Root Problems
Some other symptoms of root disease may include:
*small, yellowed foliage
*tufted leaves at the end of branches
*fungal growth at the base of the tree (e.g. mushrooms)
If your tree is displaying one or more of these signs, it is possible that it is suffering from some form of root problem and may require an arborist to investigate further.
Causes of Root Problems in Trees
Compacted soil is frequently dry and difficult to dig in. Such conditions may restrict the water and oxygen intake of a tree. This is a particularly common issue for trees in urban settings, where man-made construction such as roads, footpaths or houses may all interfere with a tree’s normal root pattern.
There is no ‘quick fix’ for compacted soil, but it can sometimes be alleviated by reducing foot traffic across the area, providing organic mulching above and below the soil surface or adding aerated plugs to the area around the tree’s roots.
*Over- and under-watering
While these may sound like relatively minor issues, incorrect watering practices can still be a major source of problems for the health of a tree. If the surrounding grounds are over-watered, the tree will not be able to extract adequate oxygen from the surrounding soil. Conversely, under-watering will leave the tree unable to develop proper root systems. Different trees will require different watering practices, so it is best to thoroughly research individual trees before you attempt to plant and cultivate them.
Root rot is a fungal infection which can be difficult to treat. Early warning signs can include yellowing/bronzing of its leaves or sudden dieback of the tree, but many trees suffer from this infection for some time without exhibiting any symptoms at all. By the time the tree exhibits more telling symptoms, it may be too late for the tree to be saved. Replacing the tree may be necessary, but techniques such as pruning or use of particular fertilisers may be an effective treatment. It is best to consult with a professional if you suspect a tree has any sort of fungal infection.
Trees are living organisms, and cannot simply be left to their own devices in a suburban or urban environment. Maintaining the health of roots is of vital importance to keeping the tree healthy. If the roots are well cared for, then it will be substantially easier for the tree to thrive.