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Tree in Standing Water?

Q: Unfortunately our 75+ old oak tree has died. We want to have it removed and replaced with something that will get big, and quickly. The oak was the visual barrier between us and our neighbors.

We believe the oak died because of water draining down on it constantly from the neighbor's lawn/yard(about a 10 foot upslope behind the oak, and the oak sits in a natural low area of our yard (about 2 feet below house level) and accordingly forms a small pool in heavy rain (which we've had the last two winters and springs--despite the drainage we installed to help with the issue).

The tree would be planted in the same area which is about 25 feet from the house, 10 feet from pool equipment and pool house (on cement pad). Our home is on slab foundation with the kitchen (and all water lines) facing the side yard with the tree. Help.

Not advisable to plant a weeping willow as recommended by some? Any other tree able to stand this amount of water (it is hot in the summer and other plants around tree are drought resistant so in the summer there typically isn't any water other than what comes down underground from the neighbor's yard).

A: There are some trees other than willow that will tolerate a moist soil, but not standing water. If you have standing water for a long time, you will have difficulty getting just about any tree to live for long. It might be worth investigating doing some more drainage work.

Short of doing this, a couple trees that come to mind are red maple and river birch. Both of these trees like a moist soil, and both grow rapidly. Elm is another tree that likes a moist soil, but be sure you plant one of the cultivars that shows resistance to Dutch elm disease.

If you have a lot of standing water, you can try planting the tree a fair amount above grade. Normally a few inches or so above grade is average, but here you might try going a bit higher, keeping in mind that if things get dry, you will probably need to provide supplemental water, strange as it may sound.

If you will be planting close to infrastructure (you mention a pool house), you might want to install a bio-barrier between the tree and the pool house. A bio-barrier will discourage roots from getting past it and causing a problem.

Also, try NOT to plant on top of, or too close to, any underground utilities, such as your water lines. If you ever need to dig them up, you'll have to remove the tree and its stump to get at them.

Quite recently we lost a 70-year old red oak at our house because it was growing on top of the main gas shutoff valve in our treelawn. We had a gas leak in our house that required shutting all the gas off but the gas company couldn't get to their valve, so they had to dig a hole in our front yard down to our gasline to cut it and cap it.

To get to the valve, the whole tree and stump had to be removed. We not only have a messy yard and a broken sidewalk as a result, we have a huge hole in the sky where this magnificent oak once stood, now gone simply because it was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I'd hate to see this happen to your tree.

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Tom Mugridge

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