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Girdling Roots

Sometimes, instead of growing outwards, a root will encircle the base of a tree trunk. This is known as girdling and while it may happen above ground level, it also often happens underneath the soil line. Girdling can cause real problems, and householders should check for signs that this might be happening to their trees. Why is girdling a problem? Girdling begins early in the trees lifecycle. A trees nutrient pipeline is located just under the outer bark so, as it grows and the trunk expands outwards, a girdled root will slowly cut off the supply. This will lead to the tree becoming dangerous and dying early. Signs of root girdling If the girdle is above ground, it is easy to spot but, as mentioned above, it often happens below ground where it will not be visible. There are warning signs to look out for, which include less foliage than usual, dying branches, smaller and lighter colored leaves, and stunted growth. As the root may not fully encircle the tree, these signs are often visible on just one side, and the trunk may not be as rounded on the affected side. Certain tree types are more likely to be affected by girdling than others. These include many types of maple, pine, magnolia and linden. If there are any signs of potential girdling, it is sensible to contact a tree care professional. They will be able to assess the problem and advise on the best course of action. What causes girdling? Girdling begins when the tree is still a sapling. If it is grown in a container, when the roots reach the edge they will start growing in a circular shape around the inside, forming a root ball. Even repotting in larger containers doesnt prevent this from happening or correct the problem. The issue is also more likely to be seen in certain conditions, such as when trees are planted along sidewalks, where they have limited root space, or where soil is heavily compacted. Equally, if a tree is planted too deeply into the ground, or is excessively mulched, it is more likely to experience this issue. Preventing girdling When planting a new tree, check the root ball carefully, especially if it has been grown in a pot. Untangle the roots and cut off those that are so badly intertwined that they cannot be freed from each other. The more of the soil that you are able to remove from the roots before doing this, the easier it is. When planting, ensure that the trunk flare, that is the part where the trunk flares out into the roots, is at ground level, not below. Add no more than two inches of mulch, making sure that it does not touch the trunk. When planting new trees consider contacting a tree care specialist. As well as providing advice, they can also assist with the planting, helping to reduce the risk of girdling and damage to the tree.

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