Don’t Let Your Trees Die a Slow Death: Identifying and Preventing Girdling Roots
There are several familiar factors, such as insects, fungi, inadequate water or nutrients and wrong pruning methods etc. which could lead to trees looking unhealthy. However there is another cause of which you may not know about – girdling roots! Uncover what these insidious roots are propagated from, why they’re hazardous for your trees and the necessary steps that should be taken by you in order to avert or fix this issue swiftly so as to maintain the health status of your treasured tree species.
Definition of Girdling?
By restraining the flow of water and nutrients from beneath, root girdling restricts a tree’s growth and hinders it from reaching its full potential.
You Mean Trees Kill Itself?
Not intentionally, but yes, the roots of this tree are winding their way around its trunk and becoming more powerful year after year. Unless addressed in time with the correct solutions, these roots will eventually cause death to the tree itself.
Does Every Tree Root Possess The Ability To Strangle Its Own Trunk?
A tree relies on a variety of roots to fulfill several different functions. These can range from fine and near-invisible searching fibers that seek out water, all the way up to rigid anchoring supports that provide energy reserves, regulate growth and ensure upright stability. If you’ve ever attempted digging too close to an existing tree, then you know exactly how powerful these woody lateral root systems can be!
Growing from the base of a trees trunk as soon as it develops its trunk wood and branches outwardly; some of these strong wooden laterals even break through soil surfaces – which if left unchecked could lead to girdling problems. It is for this reason we must take great care when planting new trees or tending old ones!
What Does Girdling Do To My Tree?
Girdling can be detrimental to your trees, leaving them looking unhealthy and unable to uptake adequate water or nutrients. With too little sustenance, they will eventually become bare and lifeless. But the danger doesn’t end there; a girdled tree may suddenly topple over with no warning sign – that’s right, it could collapse at any moment! Don’t let this happen to you: make sure your beloved trees are well taken care of without fear of girdling.
Girdling roots render a tree unsteady and hazardous, as winter storms can uproot it or topple it over without warning. Moreover, because its base is not securely anchored in soil, the girdled tree may fall unexpectedly at any time.
Unchecked, a tree with girdling roots can become a safety hazard and lead to injury or damage for which you may be held liable. In addition, its weakening condition makes it more vulnerable to insect pests and diseases that can spread quickly to your other trees. Taking proactive steps helps protect both property and people by ensuring the health of your landscape’s vegetation.
Why Does Girdling Happen?
A tree’s roots strive to expand outward and downwards, but their progress can be impeded. Here are the common reasons why girdling root problems emerge.
Inadequate planting is a surefire way to cause root girdling. When roots are buried too deep, the soil can smother them and prevent their growth – leaving your tree vulnerable to strangling. Likewise, cramming the trunk into an undersized hole will almost certainly force its roots to begin encircling in on themselves. Avoid these mistakes if you want your trees to stay healthy!
Planting container-grown trees can be a great option, but it comes with risks if their roots are not managed properly. If the roots outgrow the nursery container, they will start to grow in circles and push against the trunk flare – this strangling effect can severely damage or even kill your tree! As these root systems become longer and wider, rigidness prevents them from being able to move or bend; making transplantation into your yard an urgent necessity for proper growth.
Improper Root Pruning
Root pruning, if not administered appropriately, may lead to girdling roots. This process is conducted with the intention of eliminating detrimental or ineptly formed roots to make space for newly developing and healthier-looking ones. Accurately pruned root balls are able to offer room for fresh growth while stimulating their lateral development; however, when a root is trimmed without steering away from circles around the tree trunk or inward expansion – it won’t impede any encircling initiatives that could result in girdling.
Small Planting Holes
If a tree is planted in an overly-small hole, or worse yet, surrounded by inflexible concrete or paving, then girdling becomes far more likely. In circumstances such as these the natural flaring of the trunk at its base is severely compressed and prevents lateral roots from growing outward. As a result, they grow around in circles within the limited open soil near the planter edge instead; this phenomenon often occurs with urban street trees whose planting holes are usually too small for adequate growth potential.
Contrary to popular belief, root barriers can sometimes contribute to girdling. When a barrier is poorly installed in an undersized planting hole, the roots will be constrained and circle rather than growing down and outward. To ensure that your root barrier works effectively for you, it’s highly recommended hiring a professional who specializes in this type of service. It may also benefit you to contact your local city or landscape architect as some cities use outdated tree-planting standards which call for unnecessary root barriers. Thus always make sure that what you are investing in is truly worth it!
Are you unsure if your tree is suffering from girdling roots? Here’s how to tell.
Uncovering girdling roots may not always be possible, but here are some tell-tale signs that can help you identify them:
A straight trunk with no flaring base. For younger trees whose trunks aren’t large enough to show a flare at the base, their lack of it could simply be due to being planted too deep in the soil. However, it might also signify that girdling roots are slowly choking its growth by constricting around its bottom end. To confirm this suspicion and determine if there really is a problem, take your time and carefully clear away dirt from near the trunk’s root system for inspection.
A tree appearing stunted or underdeveloped in size compared to other similar species nearby could an indicator of compromised health caused by encircling roots depriving it of vital nutrients needed for normal development as well as energy supply restrictions imposed on necessary physiological processes like photosynthesis .
Other warning signs include smaller leaves turning yellowish prematurely; little leafage spread out over sparsely formed canopy sections; sudden wilting found among branches and twigs while they remain undersized despite attempts at further growth stimulation measures taken previously etc If after grasping firmly onto your tree’s trunk then rocking gently back/forth you notice movement all round resulting in parts of the rootball emerging above ground level along with visible leaning towards one side – these are additional indicators suggesting potential entrapment within tightly wound circling patterns laid down beneath surface levels plus weak anchorage preventing strong support structures so essential when facing inclement weather conditions experienced outdoors almost daily.
Can I Prevent Or Correct Girdling?
If a tree has been girdled, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all hope is lost. Depending on the age and size of the tree, its roots may still be flexible enough to untangle – giving your beloved plant another chance! Oftentimes, girdled trees can be saved with some tender loving care – so don’t give up just yet!
Newly-planted & Potted Trees
When the young tree is in its resting phase, carefully remove it from its container and expose the rootball. This prevents potential water stress during a critical time of growth for your sapling.
In order to promote healthy, lateral root growth and prevent kinking or circular root formation, you must carefully clean the soil from around the roots of your plant and assess which need pruning. Begin by removing any fibers that can be trimmed away with ease before gently repositioning flexible roots if possible. With rigid ones that cannot be shifted into a better place, snip them back to just prior where they start curving inwards – this will ensure new shoot development stays free-flowing!
Afterward, place the other roots either in a much bigger pot or over the dirt mound within an excavated hole. Compress and firm up the soil beneath your feet to create a stable base for the freshly planted tree that won’t sink with settling gravel. Put the roots atop this hill and start filling in around it with backfilled earth. This is often best done by two people- one person holds onto their position while another refills it from behind them!
Note: This same method can be used when planting a new tree and signs of girdling begin to appear, normally within one or two years after transplantation.
Older, Established Trees
Established trees require a more involved plan of action, and the best course of action is to hire professionals. The soil around the tree’s root ball must be manually excavated or with an air spade in order for experts to inspect it further. Although air spades look intimidating, they are actually safer than manual excavation when it comes to both exposing roots and relieving compacted soil.
An experienced arborist should always be the one to assess the condition of a tree’s girdled roots and determine whether root pruning has a chance at success. If it does, they will delicately prune them accordingly. However, large vital roots can be difficult to remove without stressing out the tree too much for its own recovery. In some cases, removal is inevitable – so planting a new tree may ultimately become your only option.
Are you concerned that your tree might have girdled roots? If so, here’s what to do next.
If your tree is suffering from a loss of vigor, not growing as expected, or appears to be leaning dangerously towards property or life, it’s time for an evaluation. A professional in the field of tree care can identify what could be causing this and provide realistic solutions on how to tackle the issue. If any danger arises due to the neglected state of your trees don’t worry– removal will rarely become their primary advice! Instead they’ll explain why treating girdled trees may help and when complete removal may be necessary.
At our organization, we prioritize the wellbeing of trees. If you have any questions about girdling roots and how they may be impacting your plants, then please don’t hesitate to contact us. We will do whatever it takes to keep them flourishing for years! Additionally, if there are any specimens that appear too fragile or hazardous to stay alive, we’ll encourage their removal for everyone’s safety. For tree services in Clarence and Buffalo area, please contact us! We’re always here to help! If you want more info, check out our blog as well.