The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Tree roots extend past the dripline

Tree roots extend past the dripline of the canopy.Now that we're home from our journey, it's time to bring my obsession with Robert Kourik's book to an end too.  Where better to end than with my greatest weakness --- fruit trees?

Robert Kourik's book threw everything I thought I knew about fruit trees on its head.  You know how the roots of trees extend as far vertically and horizontally underground as the tree's canopy spreads aboveground?  That's bunk.  In fact, tree roots often grow 1.5 to 3 times as wide as the canopy of the tree.  And while some vertical roots sink deep to give the tree stability, the majority of the tree's feeding is done in the top two to four feet of the soil, with the primary focus on the top few inches.

What does this mean for folks planting a little orchard in their backyard?  Many of us mulch our trees to prevent them from having to compete with grass for nutrients --- if we do that, we should be mulching much further out than the cute donut around the trunk.  In fact, Kourik recommends planting a cover crop close to the trunk of the tree and instead focusing your mulch on the area halfway between the trunk and the dripline of the tree, then continuing the same distance beyond the dripline of the tree.  (I've marked this area with a red line in the diagram above.)

If all of this talk of roots has whetted your appetite like it has mine, you might want to check out one of Robert Kourik's more recent books --- Roots Demystified.  My copy is already on hold through the interlibrary loan system.

This post is part of our lunchtime series reviewing Robert Kourik's Designing and Maintaining your Edible Landscape Naturally.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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