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Maintaining a healthy root system is essential to keeping trees alive and well. Roots take in air, as well as absorb water and nutrients from the ground to keep them growing for years to come. They anchor the tree into the ground and continue to grow and spread out to support the tree for its entire life. Usually tree roots remain up to 18 inches below the surface but occasionally they become exposed. There are numerous reasons this can happen but there are appropriate ways to fix them to keep you from falling or your lawn equipment from being damaged.

How Do Tree Roots Become Exposed?

While it appears that the roots have came through the soil, that is not typically the case. It is more likely that the soil that once covered them has washed away with the passing of time. One way to prevent soil erosion is through deep root feeding. During this process water, fertilizers, insecticides, and soil enhances are injected into the tree’s root zone where nutrients are absorbed making it easier for essential nutrients to reach the roots while promoting a healthy and strong root growth. There are many things that contribute to root exposure including…

  • Inadequate Structure – Trees with large canopies are great at providing shade but because they keep sun from passing through to the grass at the base, the grass will die. At that point there is nothing anchoring the soil and therefore it will continue to erode until eventually the roots are exposed.
  • Foot Traffic – If people or animals are frequently walking around the base of the tree, the soil may become compacted or wear away revealing the roots beneath the surface.
  • Erosion – Natural elements such as wind and rain, as well as runoff can result in soil erosion.
  • Restricted Space – When trees are planted too close to roadways or sidewalks, the roots may be forced to grow upwards as they have no other way to go. This is often seen in urban areas.
  • Poor Soil – Compacted or clay-based soil tends to prevent a steady flow of oxygen and moisture from getting the roots so naturally the roots grow towards the surface to get the nutrients required for the tree to grow.

The Do’s and Don’ts to Fixing Exposed Roots

You might be inclined to add more soil as a simple solution to cover up the exposed roots. It may cover the roots for the time being but it could lead to more problems down the road as too much soil will suffocate the roots and will not fix any underlying issue. Other ideas that might come to mind are…

  • DON’T Remove the Exposed Roots – Cutting tree roots can be more damaging than beneficial as it can harm or kill the tree if not done correctly. This will also reduce the amount of nutrients and water that is able to get to the tree. In addition, it may cause the tree to become unstable which can be hazardous.
  • DON’T Plant Grass – Although it can be done, it will take time and the lack of sunlight may result in the grass dying leaving the roots exposed which will be a waste of your time and money.
  • DO Add Mulch – This is the most practical option. You should remove any grass that is around the base and then add a thick layer of mulch which will protect the roots as it keeps people from walking on them and makes it unnecessary to mow on top of them.

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Davis Landscape Design & Installation has been providing landscaping services to customers in Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati since 1965! We know that the landscape design process can be overwhelming, so we work with you tirelessly to better understand your vision. At Davis Landscape Design & Installation, we’re on your team and we know how to listen and deliver.
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