Root systems may be the least visible part of the tree, but it definitely isn’t the least important part – especially when it comes to overall tree health! Roots serve as a nutrient transfer system for the tree and help establish a strong foundation.
There are many ways to damage a tree’s root system – some of which are unavoidable. However, preventative care can mitigate some root damage. Check out the list below for tips:
- Revitalize your roots. At least once a year, use a hand cultivator to carefully loosen the top 2 – 3 inches of soil. This alleviates compaction, and allows water and air to reach the roots.
- Water them frequently. Too much or too little water can damage a tree. Healthy soil should be moist, but not soggy. You can check soil moisture by inserting a garden trowel to a depth of 2”, and then moving the blade of the trowel back and forth to create a small narrow trench. Then use your finger to touch the soil. If it is moist to the touch, no additional water is needed.
- Perform regular checkups. First, find the tree drip line. This is the outermost circumference of a tree canopy, where water drips from and onto the ground. Dig a hole out of this area and determine if the soil is dry, wet or compacted. You can check by hand, or by forming the soil into a ball. If the soil is adequately moist, it can be formed into a ball with little pressure.
- Apply a layer of mulch over tree roots. This will conserve moisture, help protect the soil and roots from damage and compaction, and add some valuable organic matter to the soil. Mulch should be applied at a depth of 2 – 4” and should be kept at least 6 inches away from the trunk.