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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - February 18, 2008

From: Lago Vista, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Tree protection during construction
Answered by: Candace Fountoulakis

QUESTION:

What measures can/should be taken to ensure the health, future of live oaks while building a new home? There are many small to medium oaks on this property, some very close to the house site and the owners would like to preserve as many as possible while building their new home.

ANSWER:

Congratulations for prioritizing the health of your trees during construction. To quote a previous answer by Green Guru Nan Hampton to a similar question, roots of trees generally extend at least as far out as the shadow of the canopy of the tree. This area is referred to as the Protected Root Zone (PRZ). Covering this area with concrete is likely to cause the death of the tree by physically damaging the roots and by inhibiting oxygen and water from reaching the roots. Additionally, the roots of the tree have the potential to damage/crack the concrete as they grow trying to reach water and oxygen. You can read more about protecting trees from damage during construction projects and advice about placement of pavement in the area of trees in Landscaping Around Established Trees from University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Service and Protecting Trees from Construction Damage: A Homeowner's Guide from the University of Minnesota Extension Service. In addition, you might like to consult Andy and Sally Wasowski's book Building Inside Nature's Envelope: How New Construction and Land Preservation Can Work Together.

You can find a list of Landscape Professionals near your area who could advise you on permeable paving materials in our National Suppliers Directory if that is an option you would like to explore.

Compaction of the soil, damage to limbs and trunk, bark and other parts of the tree will all be eliminated if heavy construction equipment and storage of materials is avoided in the PRZ. Methods of protection this zone are described in the books listed above.

 

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