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Topsoil and Sod over Maple Tree Roots?

Discussion in 'Arborist 101' started by joseph2, Mar 19, 2010.

  1. joseph2

    joseph2 ArboristSite Lurker

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    On 22 yr old maple trees, several large roots extend above the ground and grass is not growing. A landscaper wants to put down 2" of topsoil and fescue sod, then use a power roller to pack the soil because it is on a slight slope where water runs off from the back yard.

    I have heard that the roots should not be covered with soil since they need to breathe and that this could damage the tree in the long term. Also, told by others that compacting soil is even more of a problem.

    I prefer to grow grass here rather than ground cover, but don't want to damage the trees. Would the topsoil and sod likely cause problems? Also, would this only be a temporary solution until the roots resurface again?
     
  2. rarefish383

    rarefish383 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I don't think your, or the landscapers, plan will hurt a maple. Yes it's only temp, the roots will keep coming back, it's the nature of the tree. I love a big Silver or Sugar Maples on a big estate, where they sit off from the house aways, with a nice manicured lawn in between. Builders like Maples because they grow fast, look nice, and a very hardy. Unfortunately they can out grow a residential yard rather fast, as you're seeing in just 22 years. If you could post up some pics, you'll get lot's of good advice, no charge, Joe.
     
  3. treemandan

    treemandan Tree Freak

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    Yes, temporary. Shortly the grass will die from lack of sun and the water dripping off the tree will wash away the dirt. I would imagine if you covered it all up now you would see the tree decline by mid summer.
    The maple roots are a tough thing to cope with after time. Everybody seems to agree the bare muddy ground is not their idea of nice. there is not a whole lot to do about save removal. I usually advise a large mulch ring with a thin layer of cleaner playground mulch spread over the dirt between the roots. but when all is said and done more is said than done.
     
  4. treeseer

    treeseer Advocatus Pro Arbora

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    Would the topsoil and sod likely cause problems? Also, would this only be a temporary solution until the roots resurface again?

    Probably not much, and Definitely. If you do not want groundcover, you are not familiar enough with cool groundcovers. The coolest thing about them is, they do not need mowing! :cheers:

    Quoth the sage! :agree2:
     
  5. ATH

    ATH Addicted to ArboristSite

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    The reason the roots are at the surface is because the soil is not fit for them to go deeper (in other words: you have compacted soil). Putting a light coat of soil over the existing roots will cover them - but what value does compacting it have (besides guaranteeing that the roots won't like growing in it)? Look at improving organic matter and improving pore space in the existing soil.

    Like treemandan said: large mulch ring. Then aerate around the rest of the tree.
     
    Mike Cantolina likes this.
  6. joseph2

    joseph2 ArboristSite Lurker

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    Topsoil and Sod over Maple Tree Roots (pic)

    Thanks for your replies. rarefish383, per your suggestion, pic is attached.

    Suggestions of what to do appreciated.
     
  7. ATH

    ATH Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Wow...having see that picture, just let me say:
     
  8. joseph2

    joseph2 ArboristSite Lurker

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    So, is there any viable solution other than covering the roots with mulch?

    If the soil compaction and poor soil caused the roots to grow on the surface, what would be the problem with covering them with a couple inches of topsoil and sodding or seeding? Oxygen starvation?

    Part of the reason so many are exposed may be due to erosion from water coming out of the back yard. I have thought of seeding fescue between the roots and see if it will come up.
     
  9. treeseer

    treeseer Advocatus Pro Arbora

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    1. maple roots will outcompete for nutrients

    2. and water

    3. branches outcompete for sun.

    4. see 1-3

    What do you have against groundcovers? many to choose from :clap:
     
  10. rarefish383

    rarefish383 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Since I'm spending your money, I'd start over. Your yard looks like the Maple has out grown it already. If that's not in the budget, your lanscapers plan would be a temp fix, but the sod would not look good more than a season or so, and degrade each year. Treeseer has a good point about some of the more non traditional ground covers.

    I like good old fashioned foundation plantings, Azaleas, Rhododendron and Dogwoods, with a nice thick crop of green grass.

    I also like Norway, and Crimson King Maples. They don't have quite the problem yours does. But, I would plant them as 8 to 10 foot trees, planning on removing them at 15 to 20 years and starting over.

    I would start over, Joe.
     
  11. isaaccarlson

    isaaccarlson Addicted to ArboristSite

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    starting over is not a bad idea....that is a mess. take the tree down and dig up as many roots as you can. Then dig a BIG pit where the new tree will go so the roots will grow down....also put some good soil in the pit with good nutrients. don't pack it too hard. You need to make sure the tree has loose soil to grow in and plenty of nutrients down deep.
     
  12. tree md

    tree md Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I can't tell you how many requests I get to remove maples for just this reason. Homeowners and builders like to plant them close to the house because they grow fast and produce shade but you end up with a behemoth tree right next to you home, bare ground and roots.

    I asked this very question last year on behalf of one of my clients. I got the same answer; temporary solution. This was in a small landscaped area though that is bordered by a walkway and retainer wall. I am not a landscaper but took this on as a favor to the president of the HOA in a condominium complex where I do the tree care. I ended up putting down a layer of nutrient rich topsoil that is specially made by our local college, raised a small flower bed where I planted perennials and topped it out with mulch. We're a year out and the tree is doing very well. The soil is loose and not compacted though.

    I agree with the others, if you don't want to use some kind of ground cover your best bet is to start over.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2010
  13. treeseer

    treeseer Advocatus Pro Arbora

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    :clap:

    :cheers:

    :agree2:

    aerate with a pick first and away you go!
     

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