Troup extension agent: Know your roots, avoid tree troubles

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 17, 2016

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 eightfold.

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 drives 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 if 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 us keep them healthy.

Upcoming Master Gardener Program

Troup County Extension is hosting the Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program starting Aug. 9. If you wish to hone your skills in horticulture and related subjects this might be the program for you.

We have a variety of topics lined up and taught by excellent instructors. We will cover a wide range of topics: botany, entomology, soils, plant nutrition, insect control, vegetables, herbs, plant propagation, planting and maintaining ornamentals, troubleshooting, pollinators, turf, trees and much more.

If you have your Tuesdays and Thursdays available and are willing to help out UGA Extension, send an email or call the office for more information.

The class will run through Oct. 20. The cost is $150.

What’s going on in Extension?

Georgia Master Cattleman Program starting Sept. 6. Call for more information.

Market on Main: Every Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. starting June 4. Come by and enjoy the pick of the day. Carmike Cinemas LaGrange 10 parking lot.

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

June 21: Troup County Cattleman; Dan Wallace, NRCS guest speaker. Topic: soil mapping; 7 p.m. Tuesday. Program will start at 7:30 p.m. The $6 meal will be served at 7 p.m. Ag Center.

By Brian Maddy

Contributing columnist

Brian Maddy is the ANR Agent for Troup County Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church St. in LaGrange and may be reached at 706-883-1675, Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–noon and 15 p.m.