Select Page

This article will focus on the major safety issue, tree overcrowding. 

The key topics will include your trees root system and the maximum size your tree can be expected to grow. The purpose of this article will be to help you understand where to plant your trees and why. An educated decision is always the best decision.

Trees are a very good resource. They shade your property, which can keep you cool and can lower energy costs dramatically and save you money. On a global and environmental scale they remove carbon dioxide (co2) and put oxygen (o2) back into the atmosphere. Aesthetically, some trees can be very beautiful, which adds to the overall ambiance and value of your life and home.

The trees root system has many types of roots that live at different depths underground. Without getting into too many technical terms here, I will simply refer to them all as roots. The deepest observed living root, at least 60 meters deep, was detected during the excavation of an open-pit mine in the United States, Arizona. Some roots can grow as deep below the surface as the tree is tall above the surface. The majority of the root system of most trees is however found relatively close to the surface where nutrient availability and aeration are more favorable for growth. The roots also grow outward away from the tree in great length and in search of oxygen and nutrients. When a tree is growing the roots spread at least as far out as the tree is tall. Add a factor of half to that for every 10 years of the tree’s life. Note that this is only a rough approximation, another common rule of thumb is that the roots spread out 2-3x times the crown width. This is very true in the fig family, where the trees grow moderately in height, but have a wide canopy like crown.

In nature trees can grow close together and there isn’t any need to worry about safety problems associated with tree or limb failure. However, in a residential setting there are safety risks to both individuals and property that you as a homeowner are responsible for.

Tree Overcrowding
When you first purchase a tree for the purpose of planting, it’s not very big. With that being said, it’s safe to assume that the tree is going to grow over the next several years. You would be surprised at how many people either don’t read the labels or simply ignore them. They end up planting trees either too close together, too close to the home or too close to a sidewalk, road or other structure. Years go by without a problem but the tree is continuing to grow both above and below ground. In this scenario I see a few problems happening. The hidden problem is the roots growing underground. The roots can cause problems with irrigation and sewer pipes, electric, foundation and host of other things. I have seen and fixed these problems on many occasions. Another type of root problem I have encountered involves adding construction features near an established tree. For example, your tree may still be fairly young and you’ve noticed that even though it was healthy in the past, it has started to slow down its growth production and you wonder why? In similar situations I have responded to customers and after surveying the immediate area located a nearby concrete or paved path that was recently installed on the client’s property. (The case is the same when a new road or sidewalk is constructed in close proximity to a tree). I discovered that the path was covering a large portion of roots belonging to the tree and the tree was now unable to get its necessary oxygen and nutrients. This was directly responsible for the trees recent inability to maintain normal growth rate.

When planting the tree(s) take careful note as to what the expected maximum size (potential) the tree can grow to. Neglecting this may lead to many problems down the road. Most problems I observe tend to involve the tree(s) encroaching on the property as they mature. There is some pruning that can be done to alleviate the immediate problem but tree removal is usually the best option. The other complications I’ve noticed is when two or more trees are placed too close together and, when maturing, start growing into each other, both with their canopy and root systems. This situation will result in tree failure. In this situation it’s best to remove one of the trees as pruning is most likely to only slow down the inevitable.

When deciding where to place new tree(s) it is best to understand how much space they will need. Give them enough space to grow naturally without the possibility of failure. If you are note sure, contact a certified arborist.

I hope this article has given you a better understanding of a trees needs and its ample space requirements. You should now be able to make better decisions on where to plant your trees in the future.