We all love a big beautiful tree. Above ground, mature trees provide shade and a beautiful canopy. But you probably don’t think too much about what happens underground. The health of your tree’s root system is vital to keeping the rest of it healthy and thriving. Let’s delve a little deeper underground and understand our tree’s roots and why they are so important.
While the actual roots of the tree can account for a smaller part of the tree, they are still an essential part. They provide anchorage and nutrients while the tree is young and can also store these nutrients over harsher months, so the leaves can return after the leaves and branches wilt in the winter months. Healthy roots are essential to trees restoring to their full vigor in spring and summer. And roots can help a tree sustain a dry season, too. Branches and roots have a symbiotic relationship, and they need each other to survive. While a tree may survive losing some limbs here and there but the same is not true for the roots. A young tree may not have many branches, but it does have a robust root system that needs to be cared for if it is to mature.
The Best Environment for your Roots
Creating and maintaining the perfect environment for your newly planted tree isn’t hard, but it might surprise you. Most root systems are not that deep. For example, some of the most famous trees – the redwoods at Muir Woods, have root systems that are 6 feet deep, holding up trees that can be over 300 feet tall. Roots don’t need to have as much depth, although they may need sprawl. Some experts even recommend leaving the top of the root ball above the current soil level to guard against tree or root rot.
Your trees will also the correct balance of oxygen and water. Too much water and the roots will drown. Too little water, and they will fail to thrive. The same is true for oxygen. Your tree is a living thing, and the roots need to ‘breathe.’ Photosynthesis only occurs in the green part of plants and trees. Your roots need oxygen from other sources – small pockets in the soil create a chance for your roots to get much-needed oxygen.
What about the Soil?
We have established that the soil surrounding your tree shouldn’t be too compact around the roots, nor should it be too wet. But what is the best, most nutrient-rich soil for your tree? The right soil will depend on the type of tree and your climate, so do your homework before planting. Most experts would agree that adding fertilizer at the time of planting is a no-no. Let the tree settle in with a good layer of mulch over the base and keep an eye on it. You may need to backfill in the coming days/weeks. Look for fertile, loamy soil to add if you see you have significant holes to fill around the root ball.
Taking care of your newly planted tree can be easy if you have the right resources. Speak to your local nursery or garden center for the best advice for your tree and your climate. A watering system like Root Haven may also serve you well in more arid climates.