The Q&A Archives: Shallow Rooted Trees?

Question: I'd like to plant some trees in my yard, but my neighbor cautioned me about the nearby waterlines below. Are there certain trees with shallow root systems that would be good or are their other ways to avoid a possible problem?

Answer: It is never a good idea to plant on top of or directly under utilities. In most areas there is a telephone number to call and request as a free service that the utilities in your yard be indentified and temporarily marked with flags or spraypaint so you know where they are -- it may be illegal, dangerous and/or inconvenient and/or expensive if you inadvertently damage these. Once you have located them you will have a better idea of the area available for planting. Keep in mind that tree roots generally reach out further than the branch spread. Most tree roots are in the top two feet of soil or less. Shallow or surface rooted trees generally make it difficult to grow a healthy lawn; tap rooted trees will have a deep central tap root but also maintain a root system in the wider area of surrounding soil so either one could potentially cause a problem with utilities nearby.

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