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RE: tree roots

  • Subject: RE: tree roots
  • From: "Mortko, Robert A. (Rob)" MortkoRA@bv.com
  • Date: Wed, 7 Aug 2002 13:55:09 -0500


I am the editor of the Heartland Hosta Society Newsletter based in Kansas
City. With your permission I would like to include this well written article
in our next newsletter.

Rob Mortko

> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Len Phillips [SMTP:lenphillips@yahoo.com]
> Sent:	Saturday, May 25, 2002 7:48 AM
> To:	hosta-open@hort.net
> Subject:	Re: tree roots
> Hank,  Chopping off tree roots with a shovel, to plant hostas can actually
> be worse than you imagined.  Many years ago I planted a beautiful garden
> under a specimen Japanese Maple.  Many roots were cut and the following
> spring, 2/3's of the tree was dead.  The tree was saved, but it never
> looked the same again.
> Chopping at the roots is the same as tearing a branch off the tree, it
> provides access for diseases and insects.  If you must cut a tree root,
> make sure you cut it with your pruners or loppers.  Make it a smooth cut
> and preferable at a joint with other roots, just like pruning a tree. 
> Cutting it anywhere encourages sucker development, so instead of one root
> you will get 20 roots, none of which will be healthy.  Also do not cut any
> root larger than 2 inches in diameter, without consulting an arborist. 
> Unless of course you don't care if the tree dies or falls down during a
> wind storm.  And if the tree falls onto your neighbor's property, you are
> libel.
> Tree roots grow at the very tip, just like the bud of the plant.  Moisture
> and nutrients are sucked in at the very tip and they are transported along
> the cambium layer, just like the branches.  As the tip grows forward, it
> uses the bulk of the tree to push against.  Tree roots will also go out as
> far as the tree is high, to provide the necessary support, not just to the
> drip line as commonly believed.  A tap root occurs only on seedlings and a
> very few species, unless you have ideal growing conditions deep under the
> tree.  
> Tree roots are also very opportunistic and will go where air, moisture,
> and nutrients can be found.  If you are watering and fertilizing your
> hostas, yep, that's where the tree roots will go.  Both roots are after
> the same air, moisture, and nutrients in the same 18" of topsoil.  
> I have found the best results are achieved by planting all of my hostas in
> competition with tree roots, in large black nursery pots.  That way the
> soil can be ideal for the hosta, the hosta gets the water, and the tree
> roots get the overflow out the bottom of the pot.  You do have to dig a
> hole for the pot, but I avoid the major roots when setting the pot and
> keep using the same hole over and over, despite what hosta may be growing
> in the pot.  
> I have also discovered that you have to dig the pot up once a year to cut
> the fine tree roots away from the pot.  These are feeder roots that are
> after the moisture that is available along the sides and bottom of the
> pot.  If I didn't do this, the roots would eventually crush the pot.  How
> much time does it take you ask?  I have 250 plants in pots, and in two
> days, I can dig them all up, cut away the small feeder roots from the
> tree, and put the pots back in the ground.  However, when I have the pot
> out of the ground, I often check to see if the hosta has become pot bound.
>  If it has, I repot it to a large size.  I will also take advantage of
> this time to divide the 3 year old plants for spring sales.  Now my labor
> effort is four days.
> There are also many other advantages of the hostas in pots.  For example,
> when breeding, I simply pull the pot of one plant and set it next to the
> other parent and do the breeding side-by-side.  If I don't like the plant
> combinations, it is easy to rearrange the design by moving the pots and
> reusing the holes with better combinations.
> Let me know if you have other questions.  My background is 30+ years in
> landscape architecture and arboriculture, so there aren't too many tree
> questions that I haven't answered.
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