Root Zone Management

Air Spade

The Air Spade is a tool that can dig through soil using the force of air. It is a great addition to our ‘arborist’s tool kit’. It allows us to dig around and through a trees root system without the potential damaging impact of mechanical tools such as shovels. Trees often suffer from compaction of soil through the root zone. Soil compaction reduces the ability for water to penetrate and make its way to the roots where it is needed. It also reduces the amount of tiny air spaces between soil particles that roots need to perform their vital functions and penetrate into the surrounding soil. Whether the tree is suffering from compaction or other root related issues, ‘Root Zone Enhancement’ with the Air Spade promotes vigorous fine root growth which translates to positive results for tree health and visual appearance.

Another reason for using the Air Spade is trunk flare excavation. Naturally grown trees have a trunk flare where the trunk gets wider and turns into roots at ground level. If the trunk flare is covered with soil or mulch, damage can occur. Trunk tissue is not designed to be constantly moist like root tissue. When the trunk flare is covered with soil and kept constantly moist, we often see damage to the vascular system that inhibits movement of water and nutrients, leading to a slow decline and eventually death. Sometimes the trees response to the constant moisture is to put roots out from the trunk itself. These roots rise to the surface and often wrap around the trunk of the tree. As these roots become larger, they effectively girdle the trunk by preventing proper expansion and crushing the vascular system, leading to lack of water and nutrients. Girdling roots can eventually kill the tree or cause it to become unstable because of a compromised root system. Air Spading allows us to do low-impact exploration and allow us to do minimally invasive remediation.

Kousa dogwood planted too deeply. The point where all limbs are attached to the main stem should be visible above ground. The Air Spade is used to dig around the tree to expose the trunk flare without the worry of damage from mechanical tools.

Root Enhancement

Root Enhancement is a technique that is used to encourage the growth of fine, hair-like roots. Root Enhancement is typically done using an Air Spade tool. The Air Spade is used to break up the soil in and around the root zone of a tree or shrub. Breaking up the soil reduces compaction, allowing fine roots to grow into the soil much more easily. Once the soil is broken up, select organic amendments are added to help maintain texture and increase the bio-diversity of the soil. The combination of reduced compaction and added amendments promotes an abundance of fine root-hair growth. The increased root growth typically leads to improved health, color, and vigor.

Other Root Enhancement Services include:

  • Beneficial Mycorrhizae inoculation
  • Soil and root diagnostic sampling
  • pH adjustment
  • addition of micro-nutrients to correct deficiency


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Sugar maple with girdling roots. Unfortunately, these roots have been girdling for so long that they are too large to cut. They will need to be left and the tree will slowly decline as it becomes more girdled over time.