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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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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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Thursday - June 28, 2012

From: Pflugerville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Trees
Title: Installing limestone walkway around trees from Pflugerville TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants:I wish to install a limestone walkway in my front yard, however, there are some roots(~ 1.25 inch) in the designated area. Will this hurt or kill the tree if I cut these away? There are much bigger roots that I will not touch. The tree is about 27 years old and needs some pruning attention.

ANSWER:

Since you did not say what kind of tree you were planning to cut away, it's hard for us to say. We know it won't do any tree any good to have roots that size cut or taken out. If the tree is an oak, we urge to you read the website on Texas Oak Wilt to know just how bad the hurt could be. Same goes for pruning. If it is an oak, no cutting until December to January, when the Nitidulid beetle is not actively taking  the oak wilt fungus around. Any time any tree is pruned, pruning wounds bigger than your thumb should be painted with pruning paint.

The other thing we would mention about this project is that those very same roots are not going to tolerate that limestone walkway graciously. The roots are going to be pushing up to get oxygen and water, as well as growing outward searching for nutrition in the soil.

We found some websites that didn't mention allowing for tree roots but did give some good instructions:

eHow - How to Install a Limestone Walkway

eHow - How to Use Decomposed Granite for Walkways

University of Minnesota - Planting Under Existing Trees

Colorado State University Extension - Healthy Roots and Healthy Trees

Learn2Grow - Surface Tree Roots: To Cover or Not to Cover

 

 

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