Listeners take Dr. Doctor's advice!
JoEllen's root flare exposure adventure.
I have been listening to your Sat show and just became a member of the ground crew. I learned from your show that the thinning canopy of one of my oak trees may be because the tree was too deep. The trees were on the side of the driveway and the house was built in 1972. I called Moore Tree service and here are some pictures of the air spade and the now very evident problem. I hope to see some positive results if it isn't too late. I'll keep you posted. JoEllen
Root Flare Q & A with photos from Frank Maddy.FM: The burr oak was not too deep compared to the others. Should I go deeper,
what about the sucker root?
HG: This flare looks good now. If you are talking about the small
root that appears to be crossing, remove it.
FM: All the fruit trees were bare root and are in their 4th year.Peach tree #1 had some roots crossing over and choking at the trunk. The tree leans, should I expose the root flare on the covered side?
HG: Yes, this tree is still too deep in the ground
FM: Peach tree #2 appears to have several sucker roots above where
the flare starts. Do I cut them off and go deeper?
HG: Those are adventitious roots (false roots) above the true flare.
I would probably wait till fall to remove them.
FM: Plum trees, I can not find a flare on either. There are sucker roots and the swelling,
but no roots that are choking the trunk. Again, do I go deeper, and cut off the
HG: Yes and Yes
FM: Thanks. I listen to both shows and I could not believe how deep these trees were planted.
HG: Good work Frank. I wish all gardeners would do this. Next maybe we can get the growers to put the trees at the correct height in the containers.
Q: I would like more information on how to go about uncovering root flares and what to put around it after you've uncovered them. J.W., Dallas.
HG: The simple answer is that it needs to be done VERY carefully. Trees too deep in the ground, an all too common problem, have two basic problems. When the trunk flare is under ground, it stays moist and doesn't breathe properly as bark is supposed to do. Soil too high on the trunk also often hides circling and girdling roots which choke the tree and drastically slow down growth. Trees grown in containers are highly subject to this damaging condition.
If you do the soil removal yourself, use hand tools and gloved hands being extremely careful not to damage the wet bark tissue. Water can be used but only with a soft flowing stream. Strong water blasts can severely damage the soft bark on the base of the trees.
By far the best route is to hire an arborist that uses the air spade. It is a fancy sandblasting type tool that blows air (no sand) at a high velocity and removes the soil without damaging even the smallest roots.
Once exposed, the small roots trying to grow up to get air should be removed and the depression caused by the trunk/root flare exposure should be left open. As the flare expands from the growth of a more vigorous tree, the open dish will fill in. All I would put in the depression is a thin layer of shredded cedar mulch.
QUESTION: I recently purchased a 5-gallon forest pansy redbud tree. I knew from listening to the show that the tree could possibly be planted too deeply in the pot, but I found it was planted a good 5 or 6 inches above the crook in the stem where the graft was, and the root flare was a few inches below that. I went ahead and planted it at the root flare, leaving the graft and a good portion of the "wet" trunk exposed. But I was wondering if the root flare rules are the same when dealing with a grafted tree, or does the original trunk below the graft need to be in the ground? D.P., Savoy
ANSWER: You did the right thing. The root flare should always be exposed. The graft union being up in the air is no problem at all. Good job!
Texas Gardening - The Natural Way,
The Complete Handbook by Howard Garrett