Mature trees have so many benefits we have talked about before including shade, habitat, and character to name a few. When you are building or renovating it is important to keep as many trees as possible. Today we are going to talk about three things you need to be aware of when building around trees.
1. Damaging the Trees Roots
A tree’s roots are where they get all of the water and nutrients from. They have a network of roots that can extend way beyond the canopy of a tree and not only provide food but support for the healthy growth of the tree. Most trees have their roots in the top 600mm of soil. When we are building this is where most of the foundations, structures, and paths go. Therefore, when you are digging or cultivating soil under and near trees to need to be aware you are damaging roots. Trees can be resilient and are able to cope with the removal or damage to some roots. However, too much damage can significantly affect the health of the tree.
2. Removing or Damaging the Trunk and Branches
Just like if you damage roots. If you break off or damage branches or the trunk when working around trees, you need to treat it as an injury. Don’t leave the branch dangling. Cut the broken section off cleanly so that bacteria and fungus don’t get into the damaged section of the tree. Damaging trunks and branches can also significantly affect the health of a tree.
3. Compacting the Soil Around your Tree
There are several reasons this is such a big issue for trees on construction sites. As I mentioned in point 1 roots are essential to a tree’s health. What happens when soil is compacted is that you squeeze all the soil particles together. This means that the air and water a tree needs to survive are not able to get into the soil. If you have read this blog before you might have heard of my soil is like a cake analogy. If not read it here.
How does this relate to understanding soil compaction? If the soil is the cake and it starts of nice and fluffy with air pockets for the soil and water. Then you smash a rolling pin on that cake compacting the cake. It is not going to be a nice light fluffy cake anymore. Gone are the air pockets and gaps for the air and water. This compaction also means that water cannot even enter the surface of the soil. The trees get less, and less water becomes more stressed and if not fixed can die.
These are the three big issues with trees and construction. There is an Australian Standard AS 4970 Protection of Trees on Development Sites that help guide what you can and cannot do when building around trees. But if in doubt it is always best to get advice.