Helping Trees Recover from Construction Injury
Listen to the article
Construction damage occurs frequently on many trees throughout the Kansas City area. Damage can be prevented if the appropriate precautions are taken. Here are some of the most common problems.
- Soil compaction - Heavy construction equipment can be detrimental to established trees. By driving on or around the root zone, the soil is compacted. This prevents gas exchange for the tree’s root system and can lead to rapid or slow decline of a tree. Contractors can make use of fencing around trees to prevent avoidable damage. Once construction is completed, cover bare soil with a 4-inch layer of mulch. The organic material will keep the tree from drying out as well as keep the roots cool during hot summer months.
- Grading problems - Often soil is either added or removed around trees to create a different grade. This should be avoided if possible. Adding soil over the root system of a tree can act as a blanket, which disrupts water and gas exchange. Taking soil away exposes roots, leading to drying and eventually death.
- Cuts and gashes - All injury to the trunk or branches must be evaluated. Prune out all dead and damaged branches to prevent hazards to people. Wounds should not be treated with pruning paints or tar. Research shows that pruning paints do not benefit the healing process.
- Root damage - Trenching and digging can pose serious consequences to established trees. Tree crowns should not be reduced to offset for root injury. Roots can only grow if they are given energy from food made by the leaves.
It is often a misconception that trees should be watered and fertilized in excess to prevent damage or death. Water should be supplied at least every two weeks. Be sure to water deeply by leaving the hose on at a slow flow for several hours. Fertilizers are not tree food, and will not correct damage done by construction injury. Proper watering, fertilizing, and mulching are discussed in the Planting and Culture section.
Related Information: All About Pruning, www.oznet.ksu.edu
Lynn Loughary, LLoughar@oznet.ksu.edu
County Extension Agent, Horticulture
Wyandotte County, Kansas
Kansas State University Research and Extension