What can I do about exposed tree roots?

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We have several large shade trees in our yard. Around the trees, numerous small thin roots are exposed. They are from pencil-thickness to a couple of inches, and they tend to come up, lay flat over the ground (or slightly elevated from the ground) for 5-10 inches, then go back down. This makes it very difficult to mow the lawn (grass is growing between the roots).
Can someone tell me the feasibility of any of these ideas:
1. Removing the exposed roots. If so, how? 2. Re-sodding. Would this be terribly expensive? Would I have to do it to the whole lawn, or just the rooty areas? 3. Giving up that part of the lawn and planting big circles of wildflowers around the trees. 4. Anything I am missing?
Thanks in advance. --S.
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Drill some holes and fill them with Roundup from your local hardware.
Then douse the rest of your lawn and garden.
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With the surface roots you describe, it sounds like they could be maple trees. #1: Don't cut or otherwise injure the roots. #2: If the roots look more like the bark on the tree and aren't creamy white in-ground roots, do not cover them with sod or soil. They need to be exposed or they will rot and eventually kill the tree. It may take 20 or more years, but it will rot the roots and kill the tree. #3: Do not plant under the tree, as you will most likely have to add soil to do so. #4: Your best bet is to remove the existing soil/grass over the roots so they can "breathe", and replace with 2" of bark mulch of your choice. Just be sure to keep the mulch 2-3" away from the trunk of the tree. This is the easiest solution in terms of cutting the lawn without whacking the roots, and far better for the tree in the long run. The University of Wisconsin has an InfoSource message on surface roots at: http://infosource.uwex.edu/recorddetail.cfm?messageid 1045&heading=Garden%20and%20Landscape&headingid=2
Hope this helps! Suzy in Wisconsin

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Suzanne D. wrote:

There isn't much you can do. The tree will most likely suck up all the water and flowers won't grow and they will be in the shade of the tree anyhow and if you flood them with water it would probably kill the tree.
--

Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8b
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You can buy ferns in liners or 1 gallon containers and plant them in between the roots. Forget about sod or wildflowers. There's not enough sun for flowers and the trees will use up most of the available water and nutrients. The ferns have the best chance of survival.
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Not a whole lot you can do. You didn't state what kind of trees you have. Some trees have tendencies to grow surface roots, such as willow. Frequent shallow watering can cause this too. It would be better to remove the tree than damage the tree by cutting the roots. I suggest a circular layer of organic mulch, mushroom compost is my favorite. You can plant a shade garden--impatients, pachysandra, ferns, etc.
wrote:

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I second the call for mulch. A layer 3" thick over the entire root zone would be ideal, but you'll probably want to limit yourself to the area adjacent to the trunk and a few feet outward. Just don't heap the mulch against the trunk--the trunk flares should be visible and able to breathe/dry out between rain/irrigation.
This solves your problem because you won't need to mow the area anymore, you won't be struggling to get grass to grow in heavy shade, and you won't see the roots.
It also benefits the tree because you won't be mowing there anymore, you won't be tempted to hit the tree with a weedeater, and the soil will be improved. When the material decomposes, it will invigorate the soil ecosystem, making nutrients more available to the tree. Also, your soil will gradually become less compacted and less prone to drought, allowing deeper roots and possibly reducing the number of new surface roots. Happy roots make happy trees!
Keith Babbenrey ISA Certified Arborist
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Correct, a willow is the main culprit, though there are a few other trees that I cannot readily identify.

Thanks, I may consider this. It is impossible to mow there, and the kids keep tripping over the roots when they play, so it might be best to plant something shade-loving and just forget about grass. --S.
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How often do you see turgrass on a forest floor? You are asking for very un-natural conditions. You either need groundcovers or a mulch, or to remove the trees.
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Actually, if you had read carefully, my problem is not how to grow grass under trees; it is what to do about the exposed roots. The grass is growing wonderfully, even up between the roots, as I clearly said in my post. The roots make it hard to mow, so the grass looks scraggly there. Plus, the kids sometimes trip over the roots while running. I was asking if I could remove the roots to allow my lawn to be mowed, or if it might be better to plant something else there. --S.
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I stand corrected
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If you have one or two roots, an axe or a chain-saw will suffice to get it below ground level. If you have a large stump (or more than one), rent a stump grinder from almost any tool-rental location. They're not that hard to use, and not that expensive.
I've done all of the above at one time or another.
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We actually have a couple dozen small roots. Would it be okay to remove all of them this way? --S.
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Have you considered adding 3 or 4 inches of topsoil around them, to cover them up again?? You could gently slope the soil up to and away from them.
--James--
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wrote in message news:aY%

No reason why not. Good exercise. How much your lawn gets hacked up depends on how much care you take peeling back the turf and digging out / exposing the root. Cutting roots with chainsaws is hard on the chain, so have a spare chain or a file handy.
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I believe that if your tree is putting roots above ground level that it is probably the type of tree that will continue doing this. Even if you cut the existing roots, you will probably have the same problem again in a few years.
Many trees are banned from streetside planting because their roots are aggressive and on the surface and will raise up sidewalks and create a trip hazard. I am late to this discussion so I don't know what type of tree you have. You may want to talk to your local nursery and find a more suitable type to grow next to your lawn area.
Always remember that trees are living things. Their roots are very important to them. Use caution and common sense when removing roots. If you remove 30% of the roots, you will need to remove 30% of the branches or you risk killing the tree. Good luck.
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Once again, this is a myth. The tree needs those branches to produce energy to recover from the root damage. Never remove a live tree branch without a good reason.
Meanwhile, removing 30% of roots or branches is stretching the limits of what the tree can tolerate. Especially if the roots are very large (say, 2" diam or larger, depending on trunk diam) or very close to the trunk.
I reiterate, the solution is to add mulch on top of the roots.
Keith Babberney ISA Certified Arborist
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Treedweller wrote:

.....but only a couple of inches or you risk smothering the roots.
--

Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8b
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Calling it a myth is a little arrogant.
While I bow to your professional expertise, there is scientific evidence to support both claims.
My tree experience has been mostly with bonsai where it is accepted practice to significantly trim the tree roots to keep the plant in a dwarf form--and this, in turn, requires an equal trimming of the foliage or it is very likely the plant will die. I agree that in landscape trees where you are removing only a few roots there is usually not a need to trim the branches. However, if you are removing significant roots, even from a landscape tree, I'm sure you will agree that the drought stress may be too much for a tree to recover and the tree will die. I have found, through personal experience, that trimming the branches of a tree that has been root-compromised is an excellent way to prevent death. I am not the only person who feels this way; many professional horticulturists agree with this assessment.
In the future, I would appreciate it if you disagreed politely instead of throwing around your "ISA Certified Arborist" as if nobody else could possibly have anything of substance to say. I have met many professional horticulturists who were dead wrong about many issues, mostly because they were following old beliefs and not keeping current with the science.
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I'm sorry if you felt this was rude or arrogant. In a discussion, I generally feel free to add my opinion as I see fit. If you disagree, you are obviously able to say so.
A few decades ago, arborists were taught that branches should be removed flush to the trunk and all wounds should be sealed, among other now discredited notions. I may be wrong. Surely we all know that's the chance you take when you get info from Usenet.
I add my CA credential to posts about trees to let people know I have studied research, attended seminars, and otherwise educated myself about trees. I do not claim that makes me infallible, but I do believe I am more reliable when it comes to trees than Farmer Joe who tops trees cuz his daddy did. I also include my sig with a link to the ISA's consumer info site, where you can check up on me if you care to (though I don't think this specific question is addressed there). I do not know what your level of expertise is, nor do I discount your oipinions out of hand, but I have been taught that this "take off branches to compensate for root loss" thing is a myth. Your comments about bonsai are intriguing and I am rethinking the whole thing in light of them, but I still think landscape trees are a whole nuther world. I'm inclined to think if you remove enough roots to cause this sort of response in a landscape tree, you're looking at trouble regardless of what you do to the branches. I'm not quite willing to retract my statements yet, but I apologize if you felt I was suggesting you had nothing of value to say. Stay tuned.
Keith
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