Putting Down Roots

November 3, 2020 · 1 minute read
Putting Down Roots

With the wet year we’ve had here in Richmond, uprooted trees have been an unfortunate but common occurrence. It’s always a spectacle to see the massive wall of roots protruding out of the ground out like a big pancake, and homeowners are often shocked by the lack of a downward root system.

“No wonder it fell over” is something I hear often.

A common misconception when it comes to tree roots is that they grow straight down almost acting as a mirror image of the canopy. In reality, roots grow outward, stretching as far out as 2-3 times the spread of a tree’s crown.

Furthermore, most roots are typically found in the top 12-18 inches of soil — not very deep at all! Why is this? Well, roots need oxygen. In sandy, well-drained soils, trees might send roots deeper underground, as the environment is more oxygenated. When the soil is good, roots thrive and create a solid anchor for the tree. Here in Virginia specifically, we have lots of clay in our soil, which does not drain well and creates an environment less rich in oxygen.

In newer neighborhoods and subdivisions around Richmond, construction backfill, poor drainage, and compacted soil can exacerbate the problem of a shallow root system. A common situation I see when looking at a tree that has fallen over is standing water, a shallow root plate, and poorly draining soil. When the soil is less than ideal, roots have trouble establishing a good structure and anchor. Couple that with the saturated ground we’ve experienced this year, and you can end up with a toppled tree.

If you are concerned about a tree on your property, give us a call. We can help you understand what’s going on beneath the surface of your yard and help identify problems before they arise.