The Garden Community for Garden Lovers

I think I damaged tree root! UPDATE

United Kingdom Gb

My back garden borders with the local park. Just directly at the propery line there is a massive Lime (I think it is lime) tree. Recently I have been trying to repair my lawn and was digging up the soil when my spade hit what looks like a large tree root running from the direction of the tree to my house. This is just slightly past the edge of the trees foliage.

The problem is I accidently shaved off the bark and a little bit of the tree root when my spade went in. I had no idea the root was there as I remember my parents burying animals down at the bottom of the garden which is right next to the tree so I figured the roots weren't really growing in this direction. If they were I thought they would be really deep, this was barely a few inches from the surface.

The question is, have I damaged the tree or the root by scraping the top surface of the root. Will it heal okay? Don't want the big old thing to get sick, I've watched it grow as I have grown.

Kind of annoying in a way as that is the exact centre of my lawn where I wanted to put a little pond!




Oh dear, Mike! I'm sure you've done no lasting damage to the tree. As I read, I feared you had severed a major big root and I was all set to tell you that you might have made the tree unstable in a high wind, but if you've just scraped it I'm sure it will recover. The worst scenario is that the wound would allow a fungus like Honey Fungus to entry the tree, but that's a risk all trees run. It's nice to hear of someone who realises that a trees roots are an important bit of it. I once saw a row of lovely old oak trees and someone had decided to put up a sheep-netting fence and had cut deep notches into the big old roots all the way along so he could get the fence straight. Arg!

25 Mar, 2009


Thank you for replying Sid. Should I have covered the wound with something? I just put the soil back on top. Should I check it to see if it has healed or not, (with a hand trowel)? Is there anything I can do to prevent fungus from infecting it?

I was going to pour weedkiller over the lawn but I know not to with those tree roots everywhere. Hmm, I wonder how I can discover where I can put my little pond in.

Again thanks for your advice

25 Mar, 2009


You will find that that root is only one of several and wil have to prod the ground to find a safe place for your pond, just like the Archeologist's do looking for old walls of houses, etc.

25 Mar, 2009


In the construction industry if we damage a tree root we are advised to wrap it in hessian sacking , to myshame I aint sure why but that is the advice given.

26 Mar, 2009


hi there
I wonder if you could paint it with something to prevent disease or infection but not sure what.I have always found Kew gardens very helpful or try the RHS Advisory department particularly if you are a member
.For RHS members who wish to contact the Members' Advisory Service:

This is info on tree roots from the internet.
Tree roots develop and survive where there is adequate oxygen and moisture. Most active tree roots are in the top 3 feet of soil; the majority are in the top 12 inches. The more compacted or poorly drained the soil the closer the roots are to the soil surface. Roots normally grow outward to about three times the branch spread. Only 50 percent of the trees root system occurs between the trunk and the dripline. Roots on one side of the tree normally supply the foliage on the same side of the tree. When the roots on one side of the tree are injured the branches on that side of the tree may die back or die. With some trees, such as maple, the effect may develop anywhere in the tree canopy.

Whilst at Wisley this last weekend I bought some of this stuff which may help~small packet was £5 odd~it encourages root growth.

Many practical benefits can be expected from using mycorrhizal fungi, including improved survival, growth, more rooting, flowering and fruiting, bolstered protection against disease, improved soil structure and resistance to invasion by non-mycorrhizal or exotic plant species. Mycorrhizae make plant growth possible, linking the roots of plants to the surrounding soil. In short, neither can survive without the other.

26 Mar, 2009


Hmm the tree has had branches chopped off by the council's tree surgeons in the past. Would it more likely get infected up there than under the ground? Be good if there was a kind of 'tree antiseptic' to clean the wound and prevent infection from nasty organsisms.

I wonder whether prodding the ground would damage more roots. I also wonder whether there is some gadget like a stud-finder, used to find joists in ceilings, to locate large roots. Geophysics may be too expensive. LOL I am joking.

Seriously I have one more question. At the base of the tree there is these big shoot/branches that project out and up and they are poking through and over my fence into the garden. I love the tree but I want to make the garden more tidy. Is it safe to snip these off?

thanks again


26 Mar, 2009


Good point - fungi does spread by spores in the wind - but also by existing fungi living in your soil. I wouldn't worry too much about it tho if the tree is otherwise healthy. Consider the damage the cable-TV people do digging trenches all along tree-lined streets. There was a time when they cut through the roots and the authorities only realised what was happening when whole rows of trees all fell down together on windy nights - with all the roots cut off in a straight line! These days you see the trenches dug with the roots carefully avoided stretching arcross the trench. That's fine - so long as they don't remove the 'bark' (if you can call it that on a root), as the flow of nutrients occurs just beneath the bark., Remove that all the way around and the rest of the root beyound the damage will die.

The root of your tree will gradually callus over. Don't disturb it further. In fact, the big woody roots are not the ones that absorb water and nutrients from the soil. It's the little tiny hairy white roots right at the tips of the bigger roots that do all the work - it's damage to those that will really affect a tree. Compaction of the soil, changing the level of the soil or waterlogging of the soil will all cause these tiny delicate roots to die, which in turn can kill a tree. I remember a while ago a lady asked a question on here why her rowan tree was dieing. After asking her a few questions it turned out that her husband had decided to create a raised bed with the tree sticking up through the middle. What was killing her tree that was by piling soil up on top of the roots they were unable to exchange gases - these little fine roots form near the surface. Her tree had literally suffocated.

With regards the branches you want to remove - what size are they? Little sappy shoots can be cut off close to the trunk. A bigger branch can be sawed off, but you need to do it right so you don't damage the trunk. Also there might be a Tree Preservation Order on the tree, so you would need to get permission from the Council to do any work on it.

26 Mar, 2009


just found a website for you~ who run a tree helpline

30 Mar, 2009


Grr. I have done it again. My lawn is just weeds, moss and clumpy grass that even my new petrol mower struggles with so I bought a couple of boxes of grass seeds from Tesco. My local garden centre says I need to turn over all the grass and break it up with a fork then sow the seeds.

So there I was, since the weather is nice, and knowing full well those pesky roots are there, trying to dig as shallow as I can to get rid of the old lawn. When what happens? Yes that's right I severed a root! I can't believe I done it again, infact worse this time. I know I should leave the lawn alone but the garden is an absolute mess after being neglected for many, many years. I just hope the tree is alright.

How can I turn over the soil without hitting the tree? How can I tell if these are even tree roots. I have noticed some of the weeds which live out there have big deep roots as well. There is a privet hedge running along the neighbours garden and two bushes down the bottom. Would these have large roots?

The other day I was just remembering how when I was younger there was a path out there somewhere. So I set about excavating it. No chance of roots being on top of the path right? Wrong. I found the path all right but down near the bottom of the garden I damaged these thin branchy roots that was running over the old submerged path. How am I supposed to know they are there? I hope they didn't belong to the tree.

A straight forward gardening job is turning into a nightmare.
The root I severed was not as thick as the one I uncovered before so I hope it wasn't all that important.

So once more, how can I fix up my lawn without killing the tree?


11 Apr, 2009

How do I say thanks?

Answer question


Not found an answer?