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How Landscaping and Construction Can Kill Your Trees

Landscaping and construction projects in Canterbury (or anywhere in the world for that matter), though beautiful, have the potential to break tree limbs, hurt tree trunks, and damage root systems. This leaves our trees susceptible to pest and disease infestations and/or affects their stability permanently, especially once the construction is over.

Prevention is always better than cure. So, if you’re planning a building or landscaping project in Canterbury, don’t forget to protect our beloved trees – before the work starts. This will help guarantee the health of the trees and their surrounding environment.

Conduct a series of thorough evaluations before the job starts

Before undertaking a project, it may be useful to take a few photographs of the project location – in its “pre-construction” state. Document the condition and also take a  look at the trees around it. This will help you keep track of any changes (happening to the trees).

Each tree should be tagged or numbered, and its position marked on the map of your land (a hand-drawn sketch is fine). Then take photographs of the surrounding area, the root flare at ground level, the dripline, and the trunk and branch structure. You can also take photographs of any pre-existing damage or disease.

Try getting a tree valuation done

It’s always wise to get a tree valuation done (prior to any construction work) through an expert arborist in Canterbury. Doing this will help you figure out if any tree in close proximity has historical significance, its value (whether it’s expensive or not), or is very healthy and mature. This will also help you know the tree’s monetary worth and its replacement cost. In an unfortunate circumstance where an accident occurs and the tree gets badly damaged, you will at least have a system in place for its cleanup or replacement.

The requirements for new landscaping and building, as well as the rehabilitation of built-up portions, can sometimes be in conflict with the placements of existing trees. Therefore, having a plan for the adjacent trees in place before, during, and after the project is considered to be one of the most effective ways to protect the safety and upkeep of the trees.

Common types of tree damage from construction

Just like icebergs, trees are more than what meets the eye. The extensive underground root system of a tree is responsible for its water consumption, oxygen intake, and absorbing vital nutrients from the soil. Additionally, roots serve as an anchoring mechanism, ensuring that a tree remains firmly anchored and capable of withstanding heavy winds and storms.

Construction work (of a building) or landscaping might pose a threat to a tree’s parts, both above and below the ground. Each step of your building project should include planning for tree protection.

Damages caused to tree roots

The roots of a tree are its lifeline, and they are especially vulnerable to injury on construction sites. The feeder roots of a tree absorb food and water for the whole tree, while the anchoring roots keep the tree sturdy and secure in the earth. If you’re unsure as to how to go about it, feel free to consult an experienced arborist in Canterbury.

It is super-important to safeguard such roots throughout construction. Given how far beyond the trunk a tree’s root system goes, this may be a sizable region to monitor and defend. Some of the most common construction operations that can end up injuring tree roots are as follows:

  • Trenching for utility or irrigation lines involving the removal of any roots that cross the trench’s course.
  • Regrading existing soil for drainage or installing new pavement often exposes or severs root systems, both of which may be fatal to a tree.
  • Excavation of soil around tree roots to prepare for new footings, foundations, or making garden ponds.
  • Tilling the soil around tree roots in order to make new planting beds or install new sod.

The solution

Prepare a plan design prior to construction work that includes existing trees as well as any planned excavation, trenching, and regrading. This information may be used to determine the best locations for protection measures and to guarantee that a sufficiently vast area is protected surrounding each tree.

Damaging tree branches and trunks

Construction sites are often crowded, which increases the chances of a truck, an excavator, a cherry picker, or any other piece of heavy machinery colliding with an existing tree. The tree tends to lose the battle between its existence and the existence of construction equipment, as that results in damage to its trunks or branches at ground level or in the crown.

Any tear and gouge in the bark of a tree prove to be harmful wounds as they expose the tree’s fragile core to pests and pathogens. These wounds need a lot of internal tree sealing off of the wounded region. Tree limbs that have been broken or pulled off may potentially cause major harm, necessitating remedial trimming.

The solution

Prune back or remove any low-hanging or wide-spreading branches that may impede the project before it can even start. It’s best to remove a branch neatly before it causes harm than to restore a damaged branch.

Tree protection tactics should be implemented around all trees in or near a building construction site. This well-marked tree protection system forbids any construction worker from coming in physical contact with any tree.

Compression of soil

Soil compaction is an often-neglected problem, yet a vital source of tree damage, owing to its invisibility. However, it must be addressed. Heavy trucks and staging areas for supplies might compress soil faster, and can get worsened by damp or saturated soils. Compaction folds up soil particles, preventing the growth of the roots, lowering oxygen levels in the soil, and preventing water from accessing the surface. These changes can cause antagonistic effects on a growing tree.

The solution

Lay out vehicle routes and staging sites ahead of time, and ensure their perimeters are marked. Then cover these paths with a six-inch layer of organic mulch or straw, followed by a layer of durable plywood sheets or steel road plates. The mulch will soften the soil surface, while the stiff covers will distribute the weight of vehicles and goods across a broader area of soil, reducing compaction. Any extra security measures, such as fences and tree enclosures, should be put in place at this time.

Affecting soil levels

The denser portion of a tree’s roots, including the major portion of water, air, and nutrients it requires, gets covered at the upper one foot of the soil. Adding more soil to an existing soil surface suffocates roots by denying them oxygen and alters the flow of water through the soil. Scraping off the soil exposes and kills the same tree roots, who would die if exposed to air.

The solution:

If you’re regrading your property for footings, foundations, driveways, or paving, make sure your existing trees are taken into consideration. When your building project is under construction, discuss any concerns regarding these existing trees with your designer or contractor. This will guarantee that your designer incorporates tree protection within the limits of the site design.

Before you start building, double-check that your designs allow for as many tree roots as feasible. Even little adjustments to the present slope, such as adding or removing soil, might be detrimental to your trees.

If soil excavation is necessary, be careful to cover any freshly exposed soil with a tarp and keep it damp.

Can it affect the sun and shade levels?

You may not be able to stop constructions from being built or demolished that affect the quantity of sunshine that reaches your trees. When this happens, the best thing you can do is to keep your trees healthy, since this will offer them a greater opportunity to adapt to their new surroundings.

The solution:

Make sure there is adequate tree protection installed around the affected trees before the project takes off. A layer of wood mulch above the trees’ drip line, in addition to physical barriers, will help keep the soil temperature consistent and prevent moisture loss.

Maintain an irrigation system for the trees exposed to hot temperatures to avoid heat and water stress. When trees are stressed, don’t trim them unless it’s absolutely necessary for safety, and don’t use a high-nitrogen fertiliser that will accelerate leaf development.

How to speed up the process

It’s only natural that your construction or landscaping projects eat up a majority of your time each day. So, to make sure you don’t have to deal with the burden of protecting or managing adjacent trees in or around the project, you can get in touch with a professional arborist in Canterbury and get the job done. Contact us today before undertaking a landscaping or construction project.