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Old 04-03-2015, 07:46 PM   #1
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Need arborist's advice on tree well diameter


I plan to add fill dirt in my backyard to diminish the slope and remove low places. To accomplish this I'll need to add 2' to 2-1/2' of fill around some mature trees (a couple of hickories, a pine, and an 'I-don't-know-but-don't-want-to-kill-it' tree).

I love the trees so much that I'm willing to invest in several tons of rock and a voluntary sentence of life on the rockpile to protect them. Sadly, I don't know how large a tree well I need to build in order to not smother them.

The hickories have about 14" and 19" diameters about a foot above the ground; their heights are about 40-45' and the canopies about 20'. The pine is about 12" a foot off the ground, and probably 60' tall with perhaps a 15' canopy. The pretty stranger has about a 9" waist, is perhaps 25' tall, with maybe a 12-15' canopy.

When developing this idea, I thought I'd make tree wells around the hickories with about a 6' radius (from the trunk). Doing more reading on tree care, I find lots of info about protecting the root system out to the edge of the canopy or a little beyond. That seems excessive if applied to a tree well, and I have never seen anything like that (in the few that I've seen). Candidly, that would make the project meaningless in both appearance and cost.

But I can't bear to kill a tree, particularly needlessly. And it would be horrible to make the effort of installing tree wells and kill the trees!

Please advise! (And thank you for reading!)
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Old 04-03-2015, 08:40 PM   #2
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It's not the tree well that's going to kill them, it's covering up the established root system that's going to do them in.
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Old 04-04-2015, 03:40 AM   #3
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[QUOTE=joecaption;1907385]It's not the tree well that's going to kill them, it's covering up the established root system that's going to do them in.[/QUOTE]

maybe, but certainly if you dig a well around the established trees trunk, you will
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Old 04-04-2015, 05:04 AM   #4
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Tree root systems are a complex biological and physical system . The need air , water, nutrients and biological process to supply air, water and nutrients in the proper proportions to support a healthy tree. Bury under 2 feet of dirt and you will certainly impair the health or kill the tree. If you want to fill your backyard, cut the trees down, remove the stumps, regrade and plant new trees.
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Old 04-04-2015, 07:04 AM   #5
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It isn't what you wanted to hear but now 4 of us are telling you it isn't going to work.

Kill em' fast or slow, you will kill them. A few inches of dirt to cover exposed roots you can usually get away with. Wells never work unless the well is larger than the drip line of the tree.
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Old 04-06-2015, 07:59 AM   #6
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[QUOTE=chrisn;1907993]
Quote:
Originally Posted by joecaption View Post
It's not the tree well that's going to kill them, it's covering up the established root system that's going to do them in.[/QUOTE]
maybe, but certainly if you dig a well around the established trees trunk, you will
My sincere apology for my verbose yet vague post.

I had no intention of digging around the trees; my plan was to lay "stack rocks" around each, building a retaining wall to leave each tree in a well at its present level.

I'm sorry if I made it seem that I wanted to dig a moat around them.

Thank you for your interest and advice.
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Old 04-11-2015, 03:50 PM   #7
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If you want to preserve your trees, then you need to preserve the existing grade underneath the extent of the tree canopy.
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Old 04-11-2015, 07:34 PM   #8
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Thanks, Curmudgeon.

I hoped to get an arborist's help because in my research on how to accomplish my goal, I learned of using growth regulators to stifle leaf development and promote hair root growth. What struck me was that it was particularly effective when a tree's roots must be cut, as when traversing with a trench, etc., or when they would be cut back, as when a tree is transplanted.

I'm very discouraged that all of you experts agree that they can't be saved if I do the filling I need to do. I am handcuffed by the feeling that I will be killing an old dog simply because it's no longer convenient to have him around.

Colbyt's advice was brutal and extremely kind in its bluntness.

Thanks again to all of you!
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