The Q&A Archives: Tree Health

Question: We have some oak trees on our property that are about 30 years old. As we live on the top of a hill, we would like to do some landscaping to level out the property. This would require us to bury these trees in about 2 feet of soil. Is it possible to keep the trees, or will they need to be removed?

Answer: Probably the number one killer of trees is construction damage. Such damage includes gouging trunk and surface roots, suffocating roots by the addition of soil, and compacting soil over the root zone by getting too close with heavy equipment. Since your trees have grown happily for 30 years, they have developed extensive root systems, including surface, or feeder roots, that provide the water and nutrients they need to maintain health. If you cover over the root area with additional soil, the trees won't get the water they need and it could result in decline and eventual death of the trees. It often takes up to 10 years for construction damage to show, but piling soil up against the lower 2' of trunk can rot the trunk and kill the roots growing just beneath the surface. Perhaps you can find a creative way to leave the area beneath the trees unchanged while you change your landscape.

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