Extension agent: Keeping trees safe, healthy

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 3, 2015

When the day temperatures start to average in the mid-90s, people start to notice that their trees may be in trouble.

If there were droughty summers or winters in years past, many times the symptoms don’t show up until the next couple of years.

Trees are wonderful additions to the home landscape. The cooling effects of their shade lower the summer cooling bills as well as enhance the value of your home.

If you look up and notice yellowing leaves or leaf drop, the next step is to look down. The vast majority of all the roots are within about 16-17 inches from the surface.

Forget the idea of a huge carrot-like tap root. If you measure the diameter of the tree in inches and multiply by 2.5 that will give an approximate area for the root spread. For example, if the tree has a diameter of 10 inches and you multiply it by 2.5, your root spread is approximately 25 feet. This is called the critical root zone.

If you park your truck or car, trench a new water or electrical line, dig a new footing or put in a new walkway in the critical root zone, you have probably damaged your shade tree. By slicing through that critical 17-inch depth you are amputating the water and mineral absorption ability of the tree. When high temperatures hit, the water needs can go up eight fold.

Also think of the soil structure. A good soil contains about 47 percent mineral matter, 3 percent organic matter, 25 percent air and 25 percent water.

When you park vehicles or drive across the soil near trees, you compress the soil and squeeze out all the air. It is even worse when the soil is wet. This suffocates the tree. It may take years before the soil recovers from one time someone driving under a tree. Roots must have air to breathe.

This is especially true when building a house. Keeping heavy equipment out of the critical root zone will result in healthy trees. Trucks do not need to be parked in the shade or unloaded in the shade. Mark off those areas to keep equipment out.

Make sure you have at least 18 feet of clearance for concrete trucks as they enter your property so they don’t damage overhead limbs. Don’t put the port-a-potty under trees you want to keep. Allow only two construction access drives into the site: one in, and one out.

You don’t need to be standing out in the yard wondering why your trees don’t look well a year later.

The hot dry summer months really stress trees out. Don’t do things that make it worse.

Never prune when the temperatures are above 85 degrees. Prune before the buds break and the leaves start to unfurl.

Fertilizing the grass under the trees at the same time the trees are trying to conserve water is another way of killing your trees. The canopy-to-trunk ratio for urban trees should be two-thirds canopy, one-third trunk.

Trees offer much to our home landscape. Let’s keep them healthy.

What’s going on in Extension?

July 13-17: Up Camp with 4-H; Come get two thumbs up by growing up, dressing up and acting up with Troup County 4-H. Lots of fun activities. Ninth through 12th graders; cost is $45.

July 20: Beekeepers, 7 p.m., Ag Center.

Aug. 18: Troup County Cattleman: Forages and Nutrition; Dr. Kim Mullinex, guest speaker, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Troup County Cattlemen. Program will start at 7:30 p.m. The $6 meal will be served at 7 p.m. Ag Center.

Market on Main begins Saturday mornings from 8 to 10 a.m. Come by and enjoy the pick of the day. Carmike Cinemas LaGrange 10 movie theater parking lot at Main and East Depot streets.

If you have any questions or concerns, stop by or call the office.