Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How to Build a Deck Around a Tree

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Spring is here, winter is over, and it's time for outdoor projects. Since the economic downturn has more and more people taking staycations rather than making the journey to Disneyland or Cabo San Lucas, why not combine the two by building a deck where the family can relax and cookouts can carry the day?

What better place to chill out after going for a long training run?

Designing a deck is a fun process. Sometimes, compromises must be made. For example, what if you have a nice shade tree? You hate to cut it down, because the shade makes your home more energy efficient.

Not only that, but the shade on the deck would be welcome indeed. Here's the obvious solution: leave it there! You'll just have to take an extra step.

DIY Tree Service

It's easy enough to frame the deck understructure around a tree. Likewise, a bit of planning makes the decking look just right. The horticultural challenges in this situation? The tree will continue to grow in girth and the topmost roots will threaten to invade the integrity of the deck postholes and footings.

First, estimate how much more girth the tree is likely to gain. If you are not sure, check in with a local nursery or county agricultural agent. Then you can properly lay out the opening.

As far as the lateral root system goes, you really want them to go down, rather than up. This is what I learned on the Randy Lemon Gardenline radio show. Three words: deep root feeding.

Deep Root Feeding

Strictly speaking, the term is a bit deceptive. The process has more to do with watering the tree rather than tree fertilization.

The idea is to poke holes straight down in the soil in concentric circles around the trunk periodically. This gives rain water a route to go deep to feed the tree's root system. The result? The lateral roots will be trained to aim downward, rather than out.

What do you poke the holes with? A length of rebar works well. Do this well before framing the deck and pour some pea gravel down the holes to keep them somewhat open. (For this initial poking, you'll have to use something thicker than rebar for the gravel to fit.)

You will have to cut the worst root offenders before you build the deck, but don't overdo it.

What I'm saying here is that you'll have to devise removeable "panels" in the decking that you can easily remove and replace when you need to.

Now get busy! Having trouble getting motivated? Try Brain Sync. We're burning sunlight here, Homer!

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1 comment:

M. D. Vaden of Oregon said...

Generally, one of the best ways to get roots to grow downward, is to reduce the amount of surface irrigation, especially with conifers.

Most feeder roots are in the top 2" to 10" of the soil.

I recall one lady in Aloha, Oregon, with a dozen shore pines leaning crooked after a storm. She removed summer irrigation and all the trees anchored roots deeper, making them much more stable. Next storm several years later did not budge any of those, or the others around them.

Tree Root Feeding

MDV / Oregon