The Q&A Archives: Cedar Damage from Black Tarp

Question: Our house is 17 years old and the original owners used black tarp under everything. Several of our more mature bushes and trees appear to have stunted growth because some of their roots have begun to grow on top of the tarp. My questions concern ourcedar trees which are probably as old as our house. Should we pull the black tarp up from around them? Could it be unhealthy for them as well if their roots are growing on top of the black tarp? We are concerned about one of our trees in particular which turns an unnatural brown during the fall and winter unlike the other six cedar trees which are of the same type. They are in the same area in a row so it could not be from freezing wind damage or anything else that would be effecting all of them.Thanks! Lisa Morse Vancouver, WA

Answer: I'm not sure if the black tarp is causing the problems on your cedars. Black plastic tarp is usually used for 2 reasons: It warms the soil in the spring and it helps keep weeds down. It is possible that since your plant roots are growing over the tarp, they are suffering from both lack of water and overheating. I'd suggest removing as much of the tarp as you can, and mulch with pine bark or some other mulch to control weeds.

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