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Edging Fad Drowning/killing Trees After Rain

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  • Edging Fad Drowning/killing Trees After Rain

    I am a certified Arboriculturist from Chicago warning our trade about the detrimental effects of edging a sharp border between grass and tree. Affected trees are becoming public safety issues after toppling over from compromised root system failures! Understand that surface feeder roots AND larger buttress roots extending radially outward from tree (like spokes from a wheel), require oxygen exchange with above ground atmosphere. This border zone ends up pooling water and drowning roots after every rain. Some species are more fragile than others which may tolerate inundation for longer periods. Because of delayed action, signs of dieback may not appear until 10 years after poor cultural landscape practice. By that time when tree finally dies, owners never know why...or that problem began years ago, resulting in declining tree unnoticeably loosing its leaves earlier each fall.

    On Mature trees, just nicking larger roots with your Half Moon Blade causes a permanent wound, promoting dieback running all the way back up the trunk. On young trees, outbound roots encountering edge, then circle around mound and back toward tree...Rather than diving down under man made obstruction that is now void of soil. This edge zone, even if NOT heavily edged and still level, also suffers from poor "compacted soil" drainage, after weekly passes from circling mower. Thus assuring the ground and roots requiring dry periods, always stay perpetually moist. Go ahead and check these zones on your customers trees for yourself. Scientifically the unintended result of Edging deeply is called "Lowering the grade". Further exacerbating problem comes from Mulch mounds artificially "Raising the grade" surrounding a landscaped tree.

    Arborist 101, never raise a trees soil grade. Forget big mulch volcanos being the only problem, the fact is a simple 3 inch application is enough of a layer to begin producing stem(Trunk) girdling root growth with. Horticulture 101, never "Plant too deep"! Flipping your dirt tailings toward tree (Further heightening existing mound) adds soil on top of this fragile zone where roots can be easily smothered. Scientifically, adding to soil grade is exactly like planting too deeply. Under mounds, existing root systems now too deep from oxygen exchange, die off. And a mass of new emergency "Adventitious" roots grow throughout added medium of "mulch turning into soil". These roots in mulch get cooked by heat of day, and freeze dead in winter. Resulting in a poorly anchored tree, and a BIG news story of the day on how some school district has to cut down all their dangerously landscaped trees now because of safety concerns.

    Also be aware that adding new soil layer on top of existing creates an in-between zone that is not favorable to root growth, or drainage problems like "Hardpan". Plant perennials, never annuals which require re-digging and re-damaging trees root systems every year. Installing planting beds at base of a tree artificially adds soil, which inevitably produces trunk girdling root growth! Overturning bare soil each season kills off beneficial mycorrhiza after inundated with oxygen and open to Sun. Loose or finally graded soil, no matter how rich, takes a long time to produce structure, and come alive! Organics need to be broken down by life underground, into inorganic production for uptake by trees and plants. (And humans like us).

    Are we "Killing trees beautifully" today? Todays mounding fad, is expected to kill more trees, than EAB & Dutch Elm disease combined! PS: Learn how to do "Root flare excavations" will bring your company unlimited customers for years to come. Also aerating soil deeply with air wand for correction of foot or more deep compaction zones, without harming roots. Enjoy!

  • #2
    We have broken every rule that you have stated here in Florida.
    From the 80's till now. Week after week, year after year... Trees are fine.
    I would be more worried about the improper trimming and topping than I would an edger.

    That is here in Florida
    I am sure the "rule" applies somewhere else in the country.

    Books teach us thees things, Time in the field disproves time in a classroom.

    Good read tho. I enjoyed it.


    • #3
      Not an issue in Florida?

      Biglee, thanks for sharing your personal observations and experience with todays tree mounding & edging fad. Which here in our region, seems to be detrimentally effecting newly installed examples under age 20 the most. Literally every one of the 400 young trees I completed "Root flare" excavations on in 2015, after mulched over four inches or more deep, had copious amounts of stem girdling root choking production. Which also ended up compacting surrounding soil enough, that it no longer drained properly after a rain. Just search for photos of "Girdling tree roots' to see how extensive the side effects of this cultural landscape practice has become for yourself. Most property owners today just assume urban trees only live for 35 years anyways, rather than their species 100+ year intended lifespans.

      It would be very interesting to figure out why your trusted landscape methods do not end up killing customer's trees, while others doing same, inevitably do. I would think region would not be factor on this issue, but species might since monocot Palm trees grow differently than Deciduous or Pine/Spruce. We have Clay up here, while your region is more Sandy. And yes, I have been edging around bushes for years...standing water after rain has never caused any problems. As an instructor teaching municipal & Park staff about trade approved "Best practices" and tree problem diagnosis, I totally agree with the whole book/classroom thing, verses accumulated "Hands on" empirical experience out in the field. Anyone can have a theory, but proving it is only trustworthy answer to rely on!

      I also agree that one of the largest landscape method & tree care problems taking place over last 40 years, is improper trimming (Pruning) and topping. Which ends up causing public safety concerns with dangerous "Wind throw", and drastically shortening their intended lifespans (Cuts rotting out). Hardly anyone is aware that "Formative pruning" is required practice over trees first twenty years, intended to keep them from producing poorly attached multiple leaders. (Turning into a bush on a stick). I hope you can supply more personal incite on this topic Biglee, being more standing water around your customers trees has not become an issue, or raising the grade surrounding them with too much mulch or added soil has never caused problems?


      • #4
        Great info, thx!


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