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Removing soil from under the canopy


Lowering the grade around trees removes roots from the tree. Even a 4-inch cut can remove many of the main roots on a mature tree causing severe stress. A cut is especially damaging to tree root systems growing in compacted or poorly drained soil because all of the roots are shallow.

Trees on well-drained sandy soils may have a portion of their roots deep under the trunk and may be less affected by cuts. The tree in the photo was growing on a well drained soil over a hard pan. The hard pan kept many of the main roots fairly close to the soil surface.

If the grade is going to be lowered, be sure it is lowered outside the edge of the canopy. Make no changes under the canopy. If grade changes are going to be made under the canopy, it might be best to remove the tree now. It will be much less expensive and safer to remove it now than later on when buildings and people are nearby.

Be sure to design a management plan for trees that receive this type of injury. This includes application of mulch, irrigation and perhaps fertilizer in a couple of year from now. Irrigation needs to be added at regular intervals for many years in order to keep trees alive that receive this damage.