Understanding Tree Root Systems

For all the beauty a well-pruned tree can add to a landscape, this effect is only possible because of what is going on underground. This is because a tree is only as healthy as its root system. Because roots work to provide the nutrients a tree needs to be healthy, their care is critical. It is important to understand the physiology of roots to fully appreciate the scope of their importance and determine how best to care for them.

It is often erroneously thought that roots grow to considerable depths below ground. However, this is inaccurate. The fact of the matter is that roots typically grown only within two feet below the ground’s surface. This area is responsible for securing the tree in place. Consequently, this is also the section of ground from which the roots are able to extract water and nutrients. Upon the specific arms of each root grow smaller roots, called feeder roots. Essentially, it is the feeder roots that are responsible for the absorption of the tree’s sustenance and, therefore, its overall vitality.

As far as location, it is imperative to understand that roots extend well beyond the circumference of the canopy by up to sixty feet. Why is this important? Not knowing the extent to which roots may grow can lead to unintentional damage. For instance, breaking ground for a garden or building project can disturb the roots of a nearby tree for which one might have been unaware extended to the site.

Alternatively, unknowingly planting a garden or other trees near the roots of a proximal tree can eventually lead to competition between the plants for the water, nutrients, and oxygen necessary for survival. In such a case, the youngest of the plants generally pay the higher price; however, all plants competing for these things ultimately suffer setbacks, no matter how nominal they may seem.

Other circumstances to consider that may negatively impact tree roots and the overall vitality of a tree include soil compaction and the opposing extremes of underwatering and overwatering.

Soil compaction often results from heavy foot traffic, whether from humans or wildlife, the use of heavy machinery on the area, extraneous weight on the soil, as from dirt or sand piles on construction sites or areas of mulch around landscaping trees, pavement, such as sidewalks or parking lots, and hefty, fallen limbs that remain in place for a prolonged period of time. Contact an Austin tree trimming professional to assist with limbs, minimizing the risk of those that may fall and change the makeup of the soil below. These are all examples of scenarios that cause soil to become compacted, thereby restricting the levels of water, minerals, and oxygen a tree needs to survive.

Of course, underwatering is detrimental for obvious reasons. As water is necessary for the tree to survive, insufficient amounts of it restrict growth and may ultimately lead to its demise. Overwatering, on the other hand, may be equally as detrimental, but generally because it deprives the tree of oxygen.

It is also important to note that just because roots lie underground does not mean that they cannot be the cause of a tree’s demise. There are diseases that are specific to a tree’s roots which may kill the tree if left untreated or, in some cases, if merely contracted. In Austin, Texas, oak wilt is one such disease. It can easily be transmitted through the intertwined roots of diseased and healthy trees. An Austin tree care service can address any questions regarding how roots are affected by oak wilt.

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

Protecting Tree Roots

The health of landscaping trees depends heavily on its ability to absorb life-sustaining nutrients, including sunlight and water. And since these nutrients are absorbed through a landscaping tree’s root system, this is one area of the tree’s physiology which shouldn’t be neglected. Unfortunately, however, the importance of a tree’s root system is quite often overlooked. If you want to ensure a tree’s survival and ability to flourish, the root system should always be considered. Let’s examine several ideas for maintaining the health of a tree through the protection and well-being of the roots.

In your effort to achieve and present a well-manicured lawn, always proceed with caution around landscaping trees. Because roots may extend for two to three times the size of the crown of the tree, there exists much room for error. You can lessen the chances for error, though, through awareness of any surface roots, their approximate length, and the area of the lawn into which they may extend. With this knowledge, you can be certain of the proximities in which to proceed with caution while using lawn equipment, such as lawn mowers, aerators, and trimmers. Careful use of such equipment may prevent root damage and, ultimately, may prevent damage to the tree.

Similarly, if new construction is scheduled for your property, protection of tree roots is quite important. This is because construction projects may cause soil compaction. Soil compaction prevents water and air from reaching tree roots. Without these necessary nutrients, the tree will eventually falter. The weight of construction equipment and the supplies used by construction companies, as well as the foot traffic, is quite cumbersome and can lead to the demise of your landscaping trees. Before construction begins on your property, invest in temporary fencing to surround the root system of your trees. Supplies, such as rope and stakes, can be purchased from a local home improvement store. An Austin tree trimming specialist can address any concerns you may have about avoiding soil compaction before construction begins on your property.

Another example of a means by which to protect a tree’s root system is through watering, particularly during the latter part of fall. As winter creeps in, the chances for freezing do as well. By taking the time to water trees during the fall, the roots will be able to soak in and reserve much needed nourishment before the harsh winter months bring frigid temperatures and winds, which tend to strip plants of their moisture. Since frozen ground can also cause damage to roots, watering during the early day is best, as this will help to prevent the damp ground from freezing over should temperatures cause an early freeze. It is best to water around the dripline, which is the area located directly under the outer circumference of the tree branches.

These are just a few examples of actions you can take to protect your tree roots and, consequently, your trees. Consult an Austin tree removal specialist for additional ideas to protect your tree roots.

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