Ask a Question forum: 30 year old tree in a box

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Denver, CO
Denvermike
Jul 27, 2017 8:00 AM CST
I have a silver maple in our backyard that has been in a planter box for 30 years. We tore up the deck and now II have some questions like how big should build a new box/container. I was thinking a round stone wall. We are pouring a stamped concrete patio and I want to make sure I leave enough room for the tree to thrive.

I took a little video now that the box has been take off. It's on YouTube but as a new member I can't post a link. Here is the URL

youtu.be/sEhCJyrDIwk

Curious to get your thoughts.
Thumb of 2017-07-27/Denvermike/63630a
Thumb of 2017-07-27/Denvermike/5d74fe

Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Jul 27, 2017 8:23 AM CST
Tree roots will lift and crack cement.
That is if you don't suffocate tree roots. Killing tree.
Anything i say, could be misrepresented, or wrong.
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Jul 27, 2017 8:34 AM CST
Can you show a picture of the entire tree?
I can't get the link you provided to work.
This tree is not 'in a box', it is rooted everywhere around the box as well. There are not just roots in that planter.
Silver Maples are extremely invasive. I cannot stress enough, that if you pour concrete anywhere near a silver maple, it will ruin it.

https://www.google.com/search?...

Here is a link giving examples of the root system they get. Are you sure yours is a silver maple?
I would cut it down now before it got any larger. Especially if you have a small town yard. They are known for their soft brittle wood, (result of growing fast) and they often have large sections break out during wind/storms. They also can ruin water/sewer system, as well as concrete-foundations, driveways, sidewalks, patios ect.

Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Jul 27, 2017 9:28 AM CST
Hi and welcome. That is kind of a sad situation for you and this tree. I can see how you'd want a nice patio under the shade of the tree. But you can't pave over the root system of a mature tree like that.

As Frillylilly points out, the tree has roots underneath where you are planning to pour your concrete patio. It has roots all the way out beyond the reach of the branches. One of two things will happen if you just build another box around the tree, and pour concrete:

1. You will kill the tree by preventing any water getting to the roots that are out of the box
or
2. The tree will survive by breaking up the concrete.

I think either way you're going to want to remove the tree. Build your patio after the tree is gone, and leave a planter for some SMALL type of tree to grow in the middle of it if you want. Or just build a pergola over the patio for shade instead, and plant stuff around the edges of the new patio.

If you really are determined to keep the tree, you could try raising the soil level maybe 6in. or so all around where the planter box was, then laying pavers on sand as your patio. It's called "porous paving" here. This way the root system of the tree will survive as the pavers on sand will allow water to get to the roots (you can't grout between the pavers to do this). You could use spaced pavers with some ground cover plants in between. Yes, the tree's roots would move the pavers around over the years, and you'd have some work to keep it level (raising the pavers, not cutting the roots!) but you'd still have a patio, and your tree.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Minnesota (Zone 3b)
RpR
Jul 27, 2017 10:02 AM CST
As Phil said, pour cement and it will probably die; if it does not it will lift and crack the cement.
Paver stones will not kill it but it will lift them also.

I doubt that is a Silver Maple as at thirty years it would be alot bigger than that.
If it is and the box and planting situation some stunted its growth, it will now send out roots where there were none before, or try.
As Phil said if it starts growing like a normal Silver Maples now, it will crack your cement and that trunk will get a lot larger than you expected.
I have a Silver-Red Maple hybrid at my house, approx 30 years old and it is over twice the diameter of yours plus I cut off one of the two trunks it had fifteen years ago , so it would not split in a storm and that trunk was larger than your tree trunk.
Denver, CO
Denvermike
Jul 27, 2017 1:17 PM CST
Thank you. This thread is so helpful.

I'm 99% sure it's a silver maple. The previous owner said it was in the box and dying. And in 1999 he jack hammered around the concrete on the car park and the roots then took from there. Meanwhile the tree stayed alive and kept growing.

We had a pretty beat up trex deck before the demo. We wanted to move to concrete for a number of reasons but based on feedback it sounds like that's a bad idea.

I'm wondering if there is another option: what if we have two feet of soil above the roots, then put concrete on top of that. And still have a 7ft radius around the tree. What do you think?

All that said should we just put a new deck in?
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Jul 27, 2017 1:20 PM CST
https://www.google.com/search?...

Here is a link to some photos showing the huge size of a silver maple. Yes, as RpR pointed out it is plausible that yours is something else, that is why I asked if you were sure it was that. At any rate, if it is any type of a maple, you should either cut it out, or disregard plans for poured concrete. Most all maples have invasive roots systems and get very large. I would not want any type of maple near my house.
Name: Celia
West Valley City, Utah (Zone 7a)
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Zencat
Jul 27, 2017 1:26 PM CST
I would like to see pictures of the whole tree, leaves, branches, and area. I personally would go with decking. Wood rather than Trex. 2' above the roots would be plenty of space. As stated before, those roots need air circulation to breathe.
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Jul 27, 2017 1:28 PM CST
Sorry, I was typing while you replied.

Honestly, if it were mine, I'd cut it out.

If you are determined to keep it, you should go to a deck option and no concrete, in my opinion. But keep in mind that a deck will be much more work to care for over the years, cleaning, mildewing (if on the east or north side), refinishing, sealing or replacing bad boards. At some point it will need replaced altogether, concrete will far outlast a deck and need much less work to maintain. It's your call, but there is no way I'd choose all that work to save a maple. There are too many other beautiful trees to plant. You could have concrete, and a tree too! Just visit your local nursery and pick something out that is more suitable for the spot. There is no need to be stuck retrofitting a tree into your plans that someone else wanted once upon a time. Around here we use Amur Maples, which stay much much smaller, but they may not grow in your area or may be invasive? You would have to go somewhere local and have them help you decided what you need. There are other trees that have really pretty foliage in the fall as well.
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Jul 27, 2017 1:30 PM CST
Don't know what your entire area looks like, but we had some neighbors up the road that built a deck and one end of the yard kind of dropped off so they were able to build one area up into a play house for their kids and a dog house built in underneath it. Was kind of neat.
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Jul 27, 2017 1:31 PM CST
https://www.google.com/search?...
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Jul 27, 2017 1:32 PM CST
https://www.pinterest.com/expl...
Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Jul 27, 2017 2:47 PM CST
No. To your last question.

Gee !😕! I'm really sorry. I didn't think of wood deck. That would look fabulous. Thumbs up
If you seal/treat from the get go. There's not a whole lot of maintince to keep them in shape.
Maybe some water sealer every few/several years. They'll last longer than a fence.
Use metal pipe supports, underneath.
Deck will outlive you !!!
😎😎😎
Anything i say, could be misrepresented, or wrong.
Minnesota (Zone 3b)
RpR
Jul 27, 2017 4:19 PM CST
If you put in a wooden deck, unless you can afford true high buck like Teak, use Cedar.
Stay as far away from green treat as you can.
The new stuff is not any near as good as the stuff thirty years ago. Also once it drys out it literally starts cracking and popping.
My one cousin put in a green treat deck and after a few years anybody in a wheel chair crossing it would have gotten sea sick from the heaves and dips.

Maples deliberately, biologically, have shallow roots.
Bury them and they will either sent new ones up or die trying.
There are oddities that beat the odds but not many.
[Last edited by RpR - Jul 27, 2017 4:48 PM (+)]
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Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Jul 27, 2017 4:31 PM CST
Yeah, you really can't put 2ft. more soil on top of the roots. They will smother, even without concrete on top of that.

You absolutely can't pour concrete over the roots, no matter how deep your bury them.

The deck idea sounds excellent and would look beautiful. We're pretty pleased with our Trex decking I've got to say. We got a new color (well, 3 years ago) that looks like teak.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill

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