If the hardscaping in your urban garden includes large trees, you may also need to watch where you walk. You worked hard to lay bricks and pavement a few summers ago, and perhaps you notice tree and shrub roots invading those spaces. Roots can displace pavers and create uneven walkways that present tripping hazards.
How Roots Can Affect Your Pavers
There are several reasons that roots might more easily interfere with your walkway or patio designs. Understanding some of those issues might help you prevent the worst of this problem. If you’ve already done the work, it might help you know how to address the current situation and future issues as well.
- Proximity – Your paved area is built near the trunk of a tree or shrub. That’s asking for trouble sooner or later. In urban terrain where tree roots often cannot burrow deeply, they will spread closer to the surface than they might otherwise, causing paved areas to buckle and heave.
- Trees planted close together – If there are too many shrubs or trees planted together, they may have to compete for water resources, which also causes roots to branch out and pile on top of each other.
- Packed soil – There may be plenty of room around a tree, but the soil around the tree has become compacted.
- Other obstructions – Sometimes, roots that want to grow deeper for stability or moisture hit an obstacle and grow toward the surface, farther away from the trunk. Stony areas, water pipes, a building foundation, or buried cables can all be obstructive. In the close quarters of rowhomes with small footprints, such obstructions are common.
Mitigate Tree Root Risks With Your Paver Walkways
There are ways to fix or workaround root issues:
- Allow space –When installing brick or paved patio or walkway, leave a 4-foot radius of space between the paved edge and the nearest tree or shrub trunk—plant flowers or lay mulch or gravel in the area as a filler.
- Remove invasive roots – This seems heartless but cutting away a chunk of the root is a possible solution depending on the value of the tree, the size or percentage of roots that need to be removed, and how deeply you need to cut. Remember, roots help stabilize a tree, so consider the damage vs. the gain before doing so.
- Barriers – Either early on before the tree grows large or after cutting roots away, place a concrete foot barrier into the soil. You’ll probably need professional help for this one.
- Remove trees or shrubs – There are some roots you simply will not stop. If the invading vegetation is generic landscaping trees or bushes, see if you can safely move them to another part of the property. If not, the trees may just become a casualty.
- Redesign – If the offending tree is especially beautiful or historical or not yours to take out, you may have to rethink and redesign your pavement or brick structure.
- Embrace the character of a gently rippling patio or walkway - In some cases, it may make the most sense to accept and enjoy the quirky nature of a patio that is not perfectly level. Historic, tree-canopied neighborhoods have a kind of charm that, for many, outweighs the drawbacks.
Some of the fixes to root situations are easy enough for homeowners to deal with, but other times, the solution might be too complicated or intimidating to take on. Renaissance Development professionals can help find a solution that retains the design intentions of the pavers while mitigating the disruption of heritage or beloved landscaping.