Common Tree Problems
It is a simple fact of life that established, old growth trees do not much care for the construction activities of people. Let’s take a quick look at some of the common and avoidable problems encountered with construction:
Most of the tree’s feeding roots are in the top six to twelve inches of the original ground level. These are very small – about the size of a pencil lead – and raising or lowering the existinggrade more than six inches will lead to damage or loss to these roots and the essential functions they serve.
Compacting the soil under and around trees can crush the tiny pores in the soil that contain essential oxygen as well as physically crush the roots themselves. If water can’t penetrate the severely compacted soils. three things routinely occur: no water to the roots, no place for roots to grow, and unanticipated surface water runoff. Driving and parking vehicles outside the drip line of the tree will greatly increase its survivability.
Root Loss from Utility Trenches
This is nearly inevitable, but is manageable. Utility lines must generally run at similar depths as root systems. Route utility trenches around the drip line of trees rather than under them. It may cost a few dollars more, but your trees are worth more!
The most controllable aspect of any construction project, trees can actually benefit from pruning if done correctly. Correctly does not mean with backhoes. bulldozers or sawsallsin the wrong hands. There are right and wrong ways to make pruning decisions and pruning cuts: learn the right way.
Soil Contamination from Toxic Building Materials
Tree roots are living organisms that do not respond well to many materials used for construction including paint, concrete, asphalt. etc. Think about what you’re dumping on the ground. Better yet. don’t put anything on the ground that wasn’t there already.
Trees can’t protect themselves from truck bumpers and heavy equipment. Protect your trees by temporarily fencing and flagging critical areas.
Develop a Site Plan for Trees
One of the most prudent things you can do before construction begins is to develop a comprehensive site plan for the landscape. Following such a plan will greatly enhance, if not eliminate, the stress these old trees may encounter when their space is invaded. Here are some of the critical elements:
- Conduct a Tree Survey
- Evaluate the condition of existing trees and the species adaptability to construction damage.
- Identify trees suitable for keeping, and remove any potential hazard trees.
- Feed the Roots
- Implement a tree root invigoration program before, during and after construction. This may include a soil analysis to determine nutrient values in the soil.
- Spare the Roots
- Consolidate utility lines and route trenches away from critical root zones. This is a good way to utilize driveways where root damage and root loss is a given.
Prune the Roots
Prune exposed roots in utility trenches
and at foundations back to the soil line before backfilling. This can be a timing challenge but is actually important for the reestablishment of damaged root systems.
Protect the Trunk
Install a mechanical protection barrier around the tree trunk. Wire 2 x 4s, plywood, anything you have on site, around tree trunks. Better to smash into a 2 x 4 than destroy tree bark and the living cambium layer of the tree.
Keep Equipment Away
Install a barrier fence at the drip line of keeper trees. Add a sign if needed to make it conspicuous that critical root zones are off limits. And, do not avow the cleaning of concrete trucks or painting equipment on site.
Keep a Watchful Eye
Monitor the site regularly to make sure your wishes are being followed. Bring in a qualified tree care professional during the project if you’re unsure how to proceed. This can greatly enhance the long term prospects of survivability for the trees. Your landscape plans, which include plants. fertilization and irrigation decisions, should be developed alongside your construction and site plans. Remember, your property is a system made up of different parts which need to be considered together, in order to work together.
Here in Pagosa. we are blessed to live in a forested area. Some of the local trees are over 200 years old. Preserving as many of them as we can is as essential to the health of the planet as natural beauty is to the individual. The forests around us are a very real treasure that we should all treat with the respect and dignity they deserve.