Buried Alive -the sad story of a memorial tree
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Do your research before you allow anyone to Fill and Kill your specimen trees.
No root flare
Magnificent Fifty Five Foot Copper Beech Tree
I received a call from a elderly Woman this Spring 2014 and she told me that she had a sick tree. She told me that she had talked with several other professionals and they told her the tree would be fine. She said the tree just did not look right.
Driving up her long pavestone driveway there was a circle at the front of the house and garage. In the center of the circle was a fifty five foot Copper Beech tree. As soon as I drove up the problem was very apparent.
The deep root fertilization was made using separate hole allowing more aeration of the soil. A soaker hose was placed around the drip line to water the tree sufficiently during the Summer months. If the foliation and leaf size are the same or larger in Spring 2015 we will do the same process again and monitor. If there is more die back and smaller leaf size then the process is not working. Only time will tell.
No root flare what so ever. This tree was buried alive. Some tree species can survive severe grade change longer than others. No tree species can survive a 8"-12"+ fill over the trees original grade even if its all good loam. Filling loam or other materials around a large trees drip line cuts off the oxygen to the roots. No oxygen to the root and there will be little or no uptake of water and nutrients from the soil. it's a slow death, 3-5 years in most cases and can go as long as 8-10 years. Some research on the subject and many state extension documentations on grade change , filling around trees state that if the fill is removed with in a 6-8 month period, the trees would have a good chance of survival if the soil is aerated. 10-12 months or more the damage is done and it would be impossible to reverse the process.
The client asked me if I knew what was wrong with her tree? I told her yes, the tree has been buried. She asked me if I could save the tree? I told her probably not. She told me that she had planted the tree in memory of her mother some fifty years ago. She asked if there was anything she could possibly do? I told her we could inject a liquid Phosphorus and Potassium which may stimulate some new root production. I told her this process would probably only pro long the inevitable. I told her that I have done this before on several properties. In the other cases where we tried this approach we only had care of the plants for 2-3 years. The treatments stopped and I have not been back to either property so I do not know if the trees are still alive. She told me that the driveway was just put in last year. The invoice was dated 13 months ago and stated they had spread 30 yards of loam in the circle. That 12" or more of grade change. She wanted me to go ahead with the project.
The tree was in full foliation, very few smaller dead branches. The leaves were less than 2/3 the size they should have been.
First we took measurements and photographs. You need documentation of the upper foliar crown and leaf size to compare the next year.
After some research on the subject I decided to try something a little different from what we have done in the past. Lack of oxygen is the problem.
We used a 3" auger to drill 1.5-2' deep holes all around the drip line in a 6' wide staggering path.
The holes were ¼ filled with a healthy root mix and compost to add organic mycorhiza to the soil. The holes were left open to allow more oxygen and water to get in to the lower soil.
It was a so called "Professional Tree and Landscape " Company that put in the new driveway.
We will be monitoring the growth and health of this tree and report its status.