How to Save a Tree

Updated: Sep 27, 2021

Well get to know it first! I have spent decades protecting trees from damage or complete removal in the face of development. If a tree you love is under threat there are a few useful things you should know...

The majority of a tree's roots will be in the first 600mm of soil - driving plant, machinery and/or vehicles over soil hosting tree roots will compact it and cause long term damage. So how far out from the tree do the roots go? The rule of thumb according to any old woodsman is as far as the outer extent of the canopy, otherwise known as the 'Dripline'. These days however, a universally accepted calculation exists which you can use to work out how much area needs to be left undisturbed if a tree and its roots are to be safely retained. You need to measure the tree's stem at breast height. What you're looking for is stem diameter, but if you don't have a diameter tape, measure the circumference with a normal tape and divide by pi. You will then have a radial distance, originating at the centre of the tree stem, and forming a circle around the tree. If you can build what you need to build without entry into that circle with plant and machinery, without needing to disturb the ground in any way, it's likely your tree can be successfully retained for the long term.

Of course, knowing many other things about your tree is bound to help in any strategy to ensure safe retention. Sometimes there's a battle to be won, an argument to be built. When I first started to put together The Tree Tarot I was determined to augment it with enough solid arboricultural information to provide education and insight for anyone who loves trees and woods. Not only will you come out of a reading with a clutch of interesting metaphysical messages to prompt self-reflection, but you will have learned a few precious conkers of bone fide tree knowledge, to help you participate in increasingly urgent efforts to protect trees, woods, countryside - to protect in fact, the vital green life of this planet, without which, we simply cannot be.

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