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Farewell to Toppled Trees

You can’t stick those root balls back in the ground

If Irene pushed over a tree in your landscape, chances are it will never recover, so it is best that you remove it and replace it. Over the years, I have seen many home gardeners and arborists try to rescue toppled trees by bracing them. However, I have never seen full recoveries, even after the trees have been braced for several years. Shortly after the braces are removed, the trees begin leaning.

In the Garden this Week

Repot Your House Plants Now

    Houseplants become root-bound in time, and now is a great time to knock them out of their containers, remove some of the old potting media, trim the roots and repot with some fresh potting medium. Organic amendments such as peat moss, compost and ground bark deteriorate in time, so the potting medium becomes dense and loses its ability to hold water and nutrients. And when the roots fill the pot, the top of plants stop growing. Don’t wait until the tops start to die before repotting. Many of the problems associated with the poor growth of potted plants can be attributed to plants being root-bound. Repotting plants now ensures that the roots will be well-established and that normal growth will resume as daylight hours grow shorter.

    To understand why it is nearly impossible for wind-blown trees to recover, consider how tree roots regenerate. Root regeneration occurs only at the end of roots and not from the sides. Roots that are one-quarter inch or smaller will generate three to four roots when cut. As the diameter of roots increases, the number of new roots from each cut root decreases. It is difficult for roots that are one inch or larger in diameter to generate new roots. One root might regenerate in a plant that is healthy and growing vigorously. Roots two inches in diameter or larger seldom regenerate.
    When trees are blown over, all of the broken roots will have splintered. Often the roots that arise at the trunk will split, exposing sapwood, which becomes infected with rot-causing organisms. Often these cracks are not visible, and the rot goes unnoticed until the tree expresses poor growth. When you see a decline in growth, it is too late for any corrective measures.
    If you spend three to five years trying to nurse a wind-blown tree back to health only to discover that it cannot regain its original condition, you would have gained that time in growth had you removed the tree and replaced it in the first place.