At one time, it was taught that tree roots form a mirror image of the crown. We now know that isn’t true. Very few trees have deep tap roots. Most trees’ root zones are concentrated in the first foot or two below the surface, but they spread out considerably further than the dripline (the outer edge of the branches and foliage). Knowing this, and combining this knowledge with new equipment, allows us to keep the roots of your trees healthy without cutting or damaging the tender feeder roots by excavating with a shovel.
Today, we use a pressurized tool, called an Air Spade. The Air Spade “gently” breaks up soil clumps and deposits the soil on a tarp. I put “gently” in quotes because our Air Spade operators have to wear heavy gloves to keep the jet of air from taking the skin off their hands, but it’s much gentler on the soil and roots than digging.
Air excavation gives our arborists access to tree roots so they can inspect them visually, as well as using electronic instruments to test them for diseases and rot. We also use this tool to loosen compacted soil so that water and oxygen can reach tree roots or when too much soil is piled around the root collar. Too much soil around the root collar, burying the root flare, indicates that the tree was planted too deeply. Removing excess soil with the Air Spade gives trees suffering from this fate a new lease on life.
We use the Air Spade most often for the identification and removal of girdling roots. A girdling root occurs when one root grows over the top of another until it strangles the root and cuts off circulation. Girdling root is caused by planting trees in too small a hole. It’s usually suspected when a tree shows signs of decline on only one side. We excavate, beginning with the affected side, until we find the offending root. We then cut it out surgically and replace the soil.
Other uses for this handy tool include vertical mulching and to remove trees for bare-root transplanting. Vertical mulching is a procedure in which holes are bored into the soil and filled with fertilizer and other amendments to help severely declining trees.
Diagnosing and treating your own tree problems is like diagnosing and treating your own health problems. It doesn’t make sense and doesn’t even save money in the long run. It goes back to the old saying, “Pay me now or pay me later.” Believe me; it will cost a lot less for us to nurse your tree back to health than to remove it.
Our arborists are truly tree doctors who have access to all the modern diagnostic and health care equipment. Call our office and let’s get to the root of your tree problems.
I wish I could have had your air spade when digging up some of the stumps in my yard as a teenager. It is a pain to have to cut through all of the roots. Anyway, it is really interesting to learn about girdling roots. I have definitely seen trees that have been dying on only one side. I just thought that it was a sign of poor watering. How do I avoid this happening when I plant my trees. How big should the hole I dig to plant my trees be? I have always heard just twice as big as the root ball.