Summer root work?

It had been a few years since I worked the roots on this trident, and a crossing root started to emerge that needed to be dealt with. Ryan Bell mentioned he was working on a similar root problem on a trident, where he was exposing the roots, and undercutting the heavy roots. The idea, similar to layering, was to grow new, finer roots from the cut site.

Last summer; July, I gave it a go. Excavating the problem root:



A little more was removed, then the area was packed with sphagnum moss:

The tree didn’t skip a beat, and on March 1, I dug it to work the roots. Here was what I found:

Look at those nice plump roots!

Because it worked so well, I marked another heavy root with a loop of wire to remind me where to make the cut. I want to keep the cut on the same plane as last summer’s:


And planted back in the ground in anticipation of this year’s growing season.


Here is the tree again in late May, just a couple weeks away from summer root-pruning. The spring root work really slowed it down this year, but it’s plenty healthy.


3 thoughts on “Summer root work?

  1. Brian can you please comment on why you do this work in summer versus late winter/early spring? What are the advantages gained by doing it at this time? How do you differentiate what’s done root wise during which season?

    1. It works with the tree’s growth cycle. In winter, the energy (sugar/starches) is stored in the roots, so if root pruning is done before the tree starts to move in spring, much of the stored energy is removed, weakening the tree.

      In summer, the leaves are actively generating energy, which is used to grow roots to store sugar/starches. Similarly, the roots of an air-layer don’t appear until leaves above are sending down sugars/starches, which pile up at the girdle until roots begin to form.

      You can see in the photo how abundantly the roots grew directly from the trunk. I think that is due to the timing; the tree is actively growing. I wouldn’t do more than 1/3 of the tree at a time, but it sure worked!

  2. Awesome BVF! Works even better in the ground! Thanks for the hat tip on the technique, but I got it from my buddy Matt Ouwinga, who works major roots like that during active growth mostly because of his climate: major lopping of roots in spring slows tridents down, no matter what the climate, but in the frigid north way too much. In any climate though, I think summer root work like this is a great idea, because, as you said, they dont “miss a beat.”

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