Trees and Construction Sites

1. Q. We had a home built 14 months ago in Georgetown, TX. The lot, at one time may have had a wet season stream through the middle of it. We have many live oaks that are growing in a pattern that suggests they followed a creek bed. Anyway at the time the house was being built, I had no idea how to protect these trees and now after reading the faq's about trees, I see the builder didn't either. They raised the lot level approximately 18 inches in some areas. To accomodate the oaks in this area, they built a stone retaining wall 2-3 feet outside of the trunks and left this small area as is. They did this in groupings of two to three trees in an area, one of the wells has approximately 40 square feet of untouched soil. My questions are A) Will this kill my trees? B) If so, is there anything I can do to help them? C)I have never contacted an Arborist, could you tell me how much I should pay a reputable one on a per tree basis?

A. Yours is a common problem among homeowners. Tree protection to the degree which would be horticulturally recommended is a rare occurrance by builders. To some degree, builders do have to build, grade, dig and compact to get the job done in a convenient practical manner. The homeowner and horticulturist may not like it but those are the facts of life and building. The amazing thing about builder blight or damage is MOST TREES LIVE THROUGH IT!! I had two trees in my yard which had two-thirds of their root system removed. What I should have done was removed one-half to two-thirds of the crown or top growth to "balance" the roots to shoots. I did nothing which is what most folks do. Nature DID it for me and "balanced" the top canopy with the remaining roots by killing one-half or more of the top. The trees looked like hell and several "knowledgeable" horticulturists told me that those trees would never survive. Ten years later they are the best looking trees in the yard. NOW, I did "cater" to the roots which were left by putting a flower bed (12-14 inches deep) on them. I watered the flower bed and fertilized regularily. All of this is a bunch of verbage to say that I think that your trees will be fine and that any money spent will probably be a waste of time -- what's going to happen is going to happen! We have noticed that larger trees are more affected by "builder blight" than younger trees; I guess younger trees can re-establish the root system faster. Also, consider that you may do additional damage trying to correct the first preceived damage. Also, consider that majority of the tree's working root system is at and beyond the dripline of the canopy; fill around the trunk cannot "suffocate" the root system because the majority of the water and mineral uptake by roots is at the roots end (root hairs) which is located at and beyond the dripline of the canopy.

I hope this puts your mind at rest. Any damage done will not become apparent for 5-7 years; just about the time the builder's warranty expires!! I don't think you have anything to worry about; it sounds as if your builder did "try" to conserve the trees.

| Parson's Archive Home | Aggie Horticulture |