Hi. The roots of my Princeton gold are exposed. What do you suggest?
Surface roots are common in older trees, and particularly in trees with shallow root systems. Princeton Gold, a variety of Norway maple (Acer platanoides), is known for its shallow root system. For many species, most of the roots are within the top 30 cm of soil. Tree roots need oxygen, and heavy clay or compact soils can contribute to roots at the surface as they seek oxygen in poor soil.
Surface roots can be a tripping hazard and can even push up sidewalks and driveways. Surface roots in a lawn can make it difficult to mow around the tree. There are a few ways you can minimize the impact of exposed roots, but it is important to remember that surface roots are natural to your tree’s growth habit. If they aren’t causing any issues, then you may just want to leave them alone.
For the health of the tree, it is important that you do not cut or chop out large surface roots, which can expose the tree to disease, reduce its stability in high wind or damage its capacity to take up water and nutrients. If removal of a large root is the only option, then it would be best to consult a professional arborist.
If your tree is in a lawn, you can top dress the area with exposed roots with no more that 5 cm of a mix of topsoil and compost, then add seed with a shade-tolerant variety of grass in early spring or late summer. The procedure can be repeated once more the following season, but don’t add more than 10 cm of soil covering, as you may compromise the roots’ ability to access oxygen. If the surface roots are limited to an area relatively close to the tree base, you can add a light layer of topsoil and compost and plant shade tolerant plants. Or, you could add an even layer of no more than 10 cm of organic mulch, like wood chips, which will protect the exposed roots from drying out, but still provide access to oxygen. Be sure to keep mulch at least 10 cm away from around the base of the tree.