Florida Landscape Doctor

Storms Make Oaks Take Deeper Root

As with our own personal lives we need good root structure to hold us up in life. When a new shopping center is built and landscape installed the question arises, Should we stake up these trees? The answer depends on many different variables. If a tree could stand on its own without being staked it would be stronger earlier. The problem arises when we have storms with heavy wind and rain. A little wind strengthens the tree, however when strong winds come and blows over the newly planted trees, the new root growth is broken loose from the soil and it has to start all over again taking hold as the broken roots try to redevelop new root growth in the existing soil. That is when it would have been better to stake the trees when first planted. Wind helps with elasticity in the tree however too much wind breaks up the new root growth of a tree not staked. Problems with staking also exist if the maintenance crew leaves the stakes on too long and the wrapping around the tree begins to cut into the tree or the barks tries to grow over the rubber protected brace around the tree. Oaks differ from Palm trees with the staking. Tall Palms as with the ones at Bill Heard Chevrolet in Plant City required us to leave the stakes and braces on longer. We finished the landscaping just before the two bad hurricane seasons in 2003 and 2004. We left the bracing on an extra season and because we did the tall 200 palms withstood the 2 hurricane seasons. We took the bracing off in 2005 and the palms have taken hold and withstood the winds in 2006 and 2007. Let’s discuss a little about root growth. Most trees do not have tap roots. In sandy, well-drained soils some trees such as oaks and pines develop deep roots directly beneath the trunk. These are called tap roots. Many trees never develop tap roots. When the water table is close to the soil surface or when the soil is compacted as we discussed in a previous article, the tap roots do not develop. Trees growing in the urban landscape differ from trees growing in the forest in that the trees in the urban landscape do not usually need to grow down deep for moisture. The irrigation is there constantly for them. Trees in the forest have to work to find moisture and their roots go deeper. They survive long because they had to develop deep root growth to find their moisture. Urban trees have a higher rate of failure than the forest trees. Most tree roots are located in the top 12” of the soil. However because the majority of the fine roots are concentrated in the top several inches of the soil, minor soil disturbances can injure or remove a large portion of the absorbing roots on a tree. This is what I discussed in the article previous regarding soil compaction. With bracing on newly planted trees usually soil compaction will not take place with these small trees. It is the Large Oaks that suffer on a job site due to heavy equipment. They already have a deep root system however the compaction causes damage to these large Oaks due to the roots beyond the drip-line of the tree. If you have to stake the Oak trees on a job-site these braces should be removed within 6 to 9 months after being installed. Palm trees can wait a little longer if need be. Just as our lives are stronger from our storms and trials that we experience in life, we need to remove the bracing our parents put on us to help us as youth and begin to become stronger without the bracing. Like the Oak Tree … Storms Make Oak Trees Take Deeper Root.

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