Most of the time, these aren’t a big issue. Even when roots become slightly invasive, there’s a pretty straight-forward way to deal with them. That being said, every once and a while, they’ll do a strange thing we call ‘girdling.’ And ‘girdling’ is a bad thing - for both the tree and the surrounding area.
Today, we’re going to talk about girdling, what it means for your tree and what you can do to prevent it and/or solve the problem. Let’s jump right in!
What causes girdling?
While there is some nuance here, an overwhelming majority of stem girdling comes from improper planting. For example - maybe the tree was planted in a hole that was too small, which prevented the roots from properly spreading out. In another instance, maybe the planting hole was too deep - forcing the roots to grow towards the surface in hopes of gaining more water and air. In other cases, perhaps the tree was in a container and the person who planted it plopped it into the ground without loosening up its roots.
Sometimes it comes from piling up too much mulch, too!
But usually - unless you were the person that planted the tree - there’s not much you can do to prevent it from happening and it’s just a phenomenon you’ll have to deal with.
How do you diagnose it?
If the roots have emerged from the soil and wrapped themselves around your tree’s trunk, then girdling is going to be pretty easy to identify. But the tricky thing with girdling is that it can happen below the surface as well - meaning you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for other clues. Here are some of the symptoms:
- Your tree canopy looks very thin
- Leaves change color before the fall
- There are entirely dead branches dotted throughout the canopy of the tree
- And the big one - one side of the trunk looks like it’s going straight down into the dirt like a dart without any kind of natural flare.
Girdling roots essentially make it so that nutrients making their way down the tree to the roots can’t flow - and they severely restrict water movement back up to the tree’s leaves. This really does a number on your trees and as such, you should see one or several of the symptoms we described above.
Treatment and removal
Fixing girdling is a little bit of a process and involves digging up the soil around the roots causing trouble and removing them. While it’s possible to do it yourself, you’re probably best off having a certified professional do it for you.
In fact, hiring a professional is the way to go largely because this isn’t as cut and dry of a process as it would seem. Sometimes girdling roots might be hurting the tree - but they could also be the roots that are actually keeping things stable and supplying the tree with the bulk of its water and nutrients. So like we said - it can be complicated.
Your best bet is to call a professional and ask for assistance. That way, you’ll be able to make the best possible decision for your tree. Good luck and if you have a tree that is girdling - give us a call and we’ll be happy to provide you with a free consultation!