Sometimes achieving the idyllic landscape requires changes. Grading is sometimes one of those changes. Simply put, grading is the process whereby slopes are created for strategic purposes. Changes in grade may be applied for aesthetics or for function, such as an outdoor grilling area or gazebo. Primarily, grading is often used in situations where drainage is a problem. Changing the slope, or grade, of an area that receives too much or too little water can correct the situation and allow continued vitality of the trees or other plant life within the affected area.

However, without consulting the expertise of a professional Austin arborist, changing the grade of a landscape can have detrimental effects, too. Whether increasing or decreasing the grade, unfortunately, damage can be done in either regard.

When increasing, or raising, the grade, additional soil is added to the landscape. The addition of even a nominal amount of soil can greatly impact a tree’s ability to sustain itself. Two damaging results may occur.

First, the addition of the soil adds to compaction. Generally, a tree is able to sustain itself through respiration because of permeability within the soil. Permeability is necessary for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. When soil is added to increase grade, compaction may occur, resulting in a tree’s diminished or total inability to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide, essentially suffocating the tree.

Second, the addition of soil to raise the grade may alter the water a tree receives. Because the addition of soil increases the overall mass of the grade as well, water may not drain properly as a result of compaction. And if the water is unable to drain, it remains stagnant within the grade, also disrupting the tree’s ability to respire, eventually leading to its demise.

Conversely, decreasing, or lowering, the grade requires the removal of soil from the landscape. Removing even a minimal amount of soil can also greatly impact a tree’s ability to sustain itself. Removing soil can lead to opposing, but equally as damaging results as those incurred when raising the grade.

The removal of soil can greatly impact a tree by causing imbalance. When soil is removed, many of the roots responsible for providing sustenance to the tree, known as feeder roots, become damaged. When the feeder roots are damaged, there is a decrease in the nutrients a tree receives. It goes without saying that without sufficient amounts of nutrients, a tree will succumb to weakness or even eventual death.

It is strongly recommended to seek the guidance of an Austin tree trimming specialist regarding lowering the grade. If excessive amounts of soil are removed, not only are the feeder roots impacted, but sometimes the roots that anchor the tree. High winds or a storm can easily cause an unanchored tree to become windblown. Depending upon the tree’s location, this may cause more than just a toppled, unsightly tree. Damage may be done to property or, worse yet, to life.

Lowering the grade may also result in insufficient amounts of water. Consequently, what little water a tree may receive once the grade is decreased may not be properly distributed as a result of any damage done to the feeder roots. It’s an unfortunate cycle that may ultimately lead to the death of the tree.

If at all possible, it’s best to change a landscaping grade during periods of construction. If this isn’t possible, however, the effects of changing a grade don’t have to be detrimental. An Austin tree care service can assist in making the necessary changes while still preserving and maintaining your trees.

About the Author: Andrew Johnson is the owner of Central Texas Tree Care, a leading provider of Austin tree service in Central Texas. Certified ISA Austin arborist services including: tree trimming, tree removal, tree care and oak wilt treatment. For more information on Austin tree service, please visit

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