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Sunday, September 4, 2016

Irrigation Water Can Direct Where Tree Roots Grow

Q. I just planted a white fruit mulberry tree at my house and close to the street. It is away from my front door or walls about 20-30 feet and it is 5 feet away from the water meter. Am I okay?  By the way, this tree is a fighter. I transported it once, almost lost it, and it came back to life after dying or shedding its leaves.
Mixture of black and white mulberry fruit in Afghanistan
A. You should be okay if you make sure that no water is leaking from the meter or anywhere you do not want the roots to go. The roots are extremely invasive.
            Make sure you apply irrigation water to areas AWAY from places you want to keep the roots from going. Roots will grow where there is water and nutrients. They don’t go “looking for water”.
            Remember, if you are focusing on harvesting the fruit you will prune it differently than a shade tree. If you want to feed the birds, then let it grow as a shade tree.


  1. I have a young mulberry and realized too late that it's planted too close to a wall. When would you recommend is the best time to dig it up and transplant?

    1. You can usually replant trees fairly easily up until it's third or fourth year in the ground. After that it gets a little dicey. The best way is to really plan ahead and cut the roots with a sharp shovel within 12 to 18 inches of the trunk in about February or March. This gives the roots all spring and summer to regrow closer to the trunk. Lift the tree by taking as much of the soil with the roots as possible in mid to late September. Pre-dig the hole before you move the tree and amend the soil with about 50% compost. Replant it the same orientation as it was growing previously, i.e. North should face North, South should face South. Plant it at the same depth as it was previously. Remove about one third of the top of the tree to compensate for the roots that were lost in the transplant. Make sure the roots of the plant are thoroughly watered into the soil in its new location. Add water to this planting hole two or three times to settle the soil around plant roots. This last part is very important. Stake the tree so that the roots cannot move. I don't care about the top. You should keep the roots from moving in the soil as the roots reestablish themselves in the new location. I like to use 3/8 inch rebar about 3 feet in length and pound it in to the soil solidly immediately next to the trunk. Use green nursery tape and tightly secure the trunk to the piece of rebar. You can remove the rebar the following summer.