Monthly Archives: September 2013

Saving the Sugar Maple Tree

Saving the Sugar Maple TreeSaving the sugar maple tree in front of my house brought up questions about how to fertilize a tree. The tree is not as full as it used to be. The picture to the right is from a few years ago when it was very full.  One city arborist looked at it in the spring and told me it is starting to die! The next tree over is in even worse shape. This tree is so beautiful that I would hate for it to die. I automatically thought that I should fertilize it. But I didn’t know where to put the fertilizer. Where in the world are the roots that would absorb this fertilizer??

So I asked a master gardener what to do… She said not to fertilize it but to put down mulch around it. The mulch would create an environment where the mycorrhiza fungus could grow. This fungus creates a mutualistic relationship with the roots enabling the roots to absorb more water and minerals. The roots in turn feed the fungus with carbohydrates produced by the leaves of the tree. The longer the mulch is there it creates compost which also makes it easier for the roots to get what they need.

So this is the answer to my question: Where are the roots of the tree that would be able to absorb fertilizer? I just saw the roots of a tree grow into my outside worm compost bin. The roots that feed the tree aren’t necessarily 5-6 feet down—they are very close to the surface as demonstrated in my worm compost bin! So I am working on plans to put mulch next to the tree and I am going to create a larger shade garden on the other side of the sidewalk with lots of mulch and compost to create a great home for the mycorrhizae fungus! I am waiting until fall when the leaves are on the ground to start this “mulch” garden. I do know one thing I will plant–all the extra bulbs I got when I separated my daffodil bulbs earlier this summer.

Tree Roots Growing in Raised Bed

Roots in compost pileThere are tree roots growing into my raised bed where I keep my composting worms. I have mostly emptied the raised bed and you can see the roots above the spade. Last year I had too many worms so I put them outside into a raised bed with mostly finished compost and horse manure. The first place that I put the raised bed posed no problems. I didn’t have tree roots growing into the compost. This summer I moved the raised bed over and now it is closer to a large tree. Unfortunately there are a lot of tree roots growing throughout the compost and it is very difficult to get the compost out from the roots.

Tree Roots Growing In Raised BedI always put landscape cloth under my regular compost pile so nothing will grow into it. But I didn’t think to do it with this worm composting raised bed. I talked to my neighbor about it and he said the same thing happened to him. Now he puts wooden boards under his compost piles. He said the tree roots come into the compost getting all the nutrients out of it.  Here is a close-up of the roots.  It is very frustrating to get all the compost out from around all the roots.  Make sure if you have a compost pile or worms composting in a raised bed that you cover the dirt at the bottom (before you start the pile) with landscape cloth or a board if there are any large trees nearby.

This whole scenario answered one of my basic questions about tree roots. Stay tuned….