Urban Soils and Tree Root Issues
A couple of years ago, during a notably large storm, a prodigious water oak fell on my neighbors’ house. This beautiful old tree could not support the weight of the branches because the root system had been compromised from years of cars rolling, parking and compacting the soil surrounding the base. Fortunately, in this case, the family was not in the house and only the house and tree were compromised, but it offers valuable insight into the damage that human activity can cause the trees in our community.
The dirt around us is constantly changing. Wind and heat and gravity and water all affect our soils. These are important positive components in creating an environment for many ecosystems. In an urban environment, one additional component is changing the soil around us: people.
People have a huge impact on the urban soils. Enormous cavities are dug for underground parking decks, the Georgia red clay is hauled away and piled to be used somewhere else, it is added to other tracts for other projects. The soil is leveled and graded and compacted. It is walked on and parked on, played baseball on and picknicked upon. Human activity is one of the main contributing factor in the changing urban soils.
This changing soilscape directly impacts the growing trees around us. Without careful consideration to how we impact the soils, human activity can have serious negative effects on our canopy.
One negative impact is the creation of a surface crust. This is caused by removal of the natural vegetation combined with compaction caused by foot traffic or wheels, and fine particles filtering in and filling in gaps beneath the surface. This hard crust doesn’t allow water to seep into the ground and be absorbed by the tree roots.
Water drainage and insufficient aeration can have a negative impact on the absorption capabilities of the trees. If the soil is too fine, such as with clay soils, it can become water-logged which can be equally bad for the root system.
When a new home is built, the ground must first be leveled. During this process, the topsoil is removed and often fill material is brought in from somewhere else. This can create layers in the soil that are different from the natural makeup of the land. This can be damaging to existing trees and can cause problems when planting replacements. The change in soil composition, including the ph and chemical makeup as well as density of the soil can prevent trees from receiving the nutrients they need to thrive.
There are several ways to remediate these effects on our trees. The first is to be aware of abused areas of your own landscape. Pay attention to where you park, where your children play, or areas that see more foot traffic. Try to park in areas that are far away from trees or only on existing parking pads. Divert traffic away from natural areas or create trails that have proper erosion control.
If you notice that the roots have been damaged in your landscape, there are plant healthcare guidelines that can prolong the life of your trees and repair damaged soilscapes. Contact a certified arborist to help with your tree concerns and you can hopefully prevent your trees from falling during the summer storms.
Fall is a great time to spread mulch on your trees and shrubs
With fall here and winter quickly approaching, now is a perfect time to mulch your yard. Not only is mulch a great way to keep weeds at bay, but unlike pine straw, it contains nutrition ready to break down and feed your plants. Mulch also acts as insulation for your plants, protecting plant roots against extreme temperatures; keeping them cool in the hot summer months and warm throughout the winter. With no weeds to pull and richer soil to work with, spring planting will come with ease.
At New Urban Forestry, our love of trees extends to re-purposing wood to make all your plants healthy and beautiful. We make our own mulch using local wood which is processed through a Rotochopper for consistent texture and a quality product. For our colored mulch we use only eco-friendly dyes of the highest quality available to our industry, because we believe that environmental safety need not be sacrificed for beauty.
If erosion is a problem for you, mulch is a great solution. It helps retain moisture in soil, while preventing excessive amounts of rain from washing it away. We suggest spreading mulch with a depth of 3 inches for best results in insulation and erosion protection. If we get rain like last winter, your plants will thank you!
As far as mulching trees goes, try to avoid piling mulch up against the trunk of your trees. These mulch “volcanoes” cause too much water retention at the base of your trees which creates the perfect environment for decay, disease, insects, and critter issues. Instead, create a donut-hole effect, leaving space around the base of your trees to prevent unwanted dampness at the trunk, while still maintaining soil moisture for the roots.
It seems as though those extreme summer temperatures are behind us, leaving us with the perfect weather for working in the yard. So don’t wait until the hustle and bustle of the holidays! Give us a call today for all your mulching needs.
How do we love our trees? Aside from just giving them a big hug from time to time? There are things you can do to show your tree love that will sustain its life, beyond just regular pruning and maintenance.
We all know that trees need water. But how much water and when? I can’t tell you that. But an arborist looking at your trees can. Are they drought tolerant species? Was it planted in the last 2 years? What is the soil like surrounding the tree? Getting the right amount of water (and seriously, not too much) is one of the first ways to make sure your trees know you care.
Speaking of soil…
What does an arborist know about soil? Don’t forget that tree roots extend far below the surface. Trees start from the ground up. To hug the entire tree, you have to get your hands dirty.
One of the biggest dangers to our trees is soil compaction. Do you park your car under the tree? Do your kids play under a particular tree every day? This compaction can damage the roots of the tree. Your tree may look fine now, but compacted soil can eventually lead to insect infestation or stress which can lead to vulnerability months or years down the road. Improving the soil surrounding trees can rejuvenate ailing trees and prolong the life of your investment.
One soil-improvement method that might be recommended by an arborist is radial trenching. This is the fancy way of saying: digging holes (in a radius) and filling them with nutrient-dense soil. This calculated process is designed to aerate and supply nutrients and prolong the life of the tree.
Do you spray pesticides on your tomato patch? Did you fertilize your turfgrass? Your whole landscape can affect the trees in and around it. They all share the common soil. This is one reason why an arborist should help when planning what to plant and where. We can help plan when treatments are appropriate and will not be harmful to your trees and shrubs, and also how pruning and treatment of trees can affect the other plants as well.
Planning your landscape with the longevity of trees and plants in mind with the help of an arborist can prevent problems that might occur years down the road and show your trees that you love them for many years.
New Urban Forestry is excited to offer a customer referral program. We recognize that our success is based on your support. We would like to give back to those who have shared their positive experiences with their friends and neighbors about our services over the years. As a benefit to you, your friends, your neighbors, and the broader Athens community, we would like to offer a gift to show our gratitude.
We are aware that often you receive little in return when a tree is removed. We believe in the future of trees in Athens. We hope as a business to not only maintain the existing tree canopy in our community, but also prepare for the future tree canopy. For every tree that we remove, we hope that an additional tree is being planted to replace it. We’d like to help in this process by giving our customers a tree to plant.
How it works
If an existing New Urban Forestry successfully refers a new customer, New Urban Forestry will give the existing customer a thank you gift. Please let us know if someone has referred you.
What is a Successful Referral?
A successful referral is when a new customer mentions an existing customer by name and both customers have had work completed by New Urban Forestry.
What is the gift?
New Urban Forestry will donate to the referring customer one 3 gallon tree that is drought and disease resistant and appropriate for our region. If you do not have room for a tree, or do not need a tree, we will give you a t-shirt designed specifically for our customers. For each t-shirt we give away or sell we will donate $5.00 to the Athens Clarke County Community Tree Council to assist with area-wide tree plantings.
Thank you for your business and your support!
- It is known as City Cemetery and was sold in 1897 during the Spanish-American War to the government to create a training base for soldiers. They built an army hospital on the site.
- In 1898 the government sold the land back to Athens, which then dubbed the hospital “The Pest House.” It was a TB hospital.
- Part of the hospital was moved in 1914.
- All that is left are 30 graves, most near-identical with square, concrete headstones. Some of the graves may have been covered up by the H.T. Edwards building.
- The cemetery has also been known at times as Pauper Ground or Poor Burying Ground according to some death certificates.
We are surrounded by wood. Wood is in our houses as furniture, flooring, cabinetry and more.
Our houses are built of wood. Yet, while we see trees removed from our own neighborhoods every year, most of the wood in our homes came from west of the Rockies, north of the Ohio River, Asia, or even South America.
Buying wood that grew in Athens is better for the community than buying imported wood.
Buying local wood creates jobs, reduces fossil fuel consumption for transportation, and cycles
money back into the local economy. Buying urban wood, salvaged from a responsible tree removal company, reduces the burden on landfills, removes and stores carbon, and guarantees that the wood came from a sustainable source.
Local wood production creates local jobs including Sawmill Operations, Millworks, Kilns, and Warehousing. It further supports Carpenters, Designers, and Green Builders. In Athens, a final wood product can be found within a few miles of the tree it came from, having traveled less than 30 miles on the road. Local spending has an exponential positive effect on the local economy. It reduces our imported goods and increases our potential exports, drawing money into the community.
When wood products are needed, community trees continue to provide value to Athens as a sustainable lumber resource, an economic commodity, and a local connection.
Athens and Watkinsville Georgia Tree Service, New Urban Forestry, offers mulch for sale. We recycle all of our wood waste into mulch, lumber, and wood slabs. Please call: 706-521-4039 for details regarding our mulch products. All Available for Pick-up or Delivery
New Urban Forestry Hardwood Mulch:
– Double Ground Hardwood Mulch
– Made from Aged Wood
– Freshly Ground
Wood Chips for
– Economical Mulching Option
– We carry both Aged and Fresh Hardwood Chips
– Great for Application around Trees and Shrubs
The Benefits of Mulching
Mulching is one of the best things you can do for your yard because it suppresses weed growth, prevents water loss from the soil, and improves overall soil structure. Mulching wide around trees will help protect roots from weed-eater and lawn mower blades while giving your lawn a fresh look. Organic mulches mimic a tree’s natural environment and promotes plant health. Call us today for high-quality mulch produced right here in Athens.
New Urban Forestry now has compost for sale in addition to mulch and wood chips. It’s time to start planning spring gardens!
Just when you thought you’d heard all the arguments for using mulch in the garden, here comes the Morton Arboretum’s Dr. George Ware with yet another benefit.
Using double-ground mulch around trees helps their health because it “degrades at a favorable rate to return nutrients to the soil,” but also, it manages water runoff more effectively than grass, according to Dr. Ware in a newly published report.
“Mulching around trees creates mini water-detention systems,” says Ware, dendrologist emeritus.
Ware observes that anyone concerned with “greening” the earth recognizes the need for water conservation. “Rain barrels and rain gardens are gestures in the right direction,” he says. But with enough double-ground mulch, water is held like a sponge and released back into the earth in quantities that will really make a difference.
The key is learning how to mulch a tree properly. This finely ground mulch, available in most garden centers and home improvement stores, appears shredded, as opposed to chips or chunks.
Of course mulch helps to protect tree roots from lawn mower blades and weed whips, but it also fortifies the tree. As the mulch decomposes, it adds organic material with needed nutrients to the soil.
“All gardeners can tell you their complaints about our region’s clay soil,” Ware chuckles. Not only does it produce rapid rain runoff, and lessen needed water from reaching plants’ roots, but it also may create basins for standing water in the wrong places. “The challenge is to get spongy soil,” Ware says.
With double-ground mulch, spread three-to-four inches thick, the porosity of the soil will be greatly improved in time. This allows oxygen and water to permeate to the plant’s roots. About every two years, you will need to replenish the mulch to compensate for decomposition and any displacement.
Ware says the type of mulch, that is, oak vs. pine vs. cedar, is less important than using a double-ground variety. “One of the best ways to get mulch is to rake up your own leaves and run the lawn mower over them,” he advises.
Mulch should be spread as far as possible to the drip line of the tree (the circle circumscribed by outer branches). Visit The Morton Arboretum website at www.mortonarb.org and get more details through Plant Clinic.
There is no need to remove grass under the area to be mulched. Just mow it closely before applying mulch and the grass will become part of the decomposed matter.
Ware suggests creating conditions in your yard that mimic the forest floor, where leaf litter naturally collects. “Let’s make the tree think it is back in the forest where its ancestors lived,” he says.
Glad You Asked
Q. Is mulch really that effective?
A. One study at the Morton Arboretum showed that young sugar maples that had been mulched at a three to four inch depth achieved crown growth (after five growing seasons) nearly twice that of controls where grass had returned. All evidence points to the benefits of mulch.
Q. What is the difference between the contributions of winter and summer mulch?
A. In summer, mulch is effective for conserving water, controlling weeds, preventing soil erosion, and encouraging root growth. Winter mulch acts as insulation to protect roots, and sometimes promote growth of tiny roots.
Q. What is “volcano” mulch?
A. “Volcano” mulch refers to the inappropriate practice of mounding mulch up around the trunk of a tree. This can tempt burrowing animals to nest there and damage the tree, or promote potentially lethal disease growth on the trunk’s base. It is far better to spread the mulch in a donut shape, with a thinner layer nearest the trunk of a tree.