Golf Course Management

JUL 2013

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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Page 67 of 119

To avoid the development of unsightly and unhealthy girdled roots, gently loosen the tightly bound mass of encircled underground stems before planting. Photos by John Fech Top of root ball 10% above landscape soil Mulch covering edge of root ball, root piled on top Irrigation device Root ball Backfll 62 GCM July 2013 Backfll Planting time prevention One of the most opportune times to prevent problems is at planting time. After all, once the tree, shrub or perennial is in the ground, the level of control that a superintendent has over it goes way down. Considering the importance of the roots, both in terms of function as well as in size, it's wise to pay attention to the root system as plants are installed. The frst issue is digging the proper-sized hole. Actually, it's best to think of the excavated soil as a "planting area." A good rule of thumb is to size up the root ball and create an opening in the ground no deeper than the root mass, and three times as wide. A wide planting area helps to encourage roots to expand rather than to remain where planted. In addition, placing the root ball on top of undisturbed soil in the planting area prevents the root ball from sinking. The next consideration is avoiding girdled roots. In many cases, trees arrive at the planting site in plastic pots or with the root ball — a mass of encircled underground stems — tightly bound with burlap. If left in this arrangement, the roots will continue to grow larger and larger in diameter, with very few breaking free of this pattern and outward into the adjacent soil. Those grown in nurseries using proprietary systems such as RootMaker, GroBag and RootTrapper technology tend to fare better, producing fewer girdling roots. To the extent possible, break roots loose from the girdled root mass and spread them laterally in the planting hole. Inevitably, during this process, a few roots will break, exposing the inner tissues. As with many other issues, there is a balance between damaging the roots to break them loose and allowing them to remain in an arrangement that is almost certain to create problems with uptake of water and nutrients and/or create structural weakness. Ideally, all the constricted or encircled roots are able to be freed and spread laterally in the planting area. The other side of the spectrum is the need to cut through large roots in order to spread them out, an action that should be avoided to deter invasion of root decay organisms. Another consideration in avoiding girdling roots is the matter of enhancing the planting area by adding sand, peat moss, bark, compost or other materials to encourage root growth. Unfortunately, in most cases, these amendments encourage the expanding roots to remain in the planting area instead of growing into undisturbed soil. The effect that is produced is similar to a perched water table. The soil that was removed to create the plant-

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