Wet soil making Utah’s ground too soft for some trees, expert gives guidance

Apr 24, 2023, 7:00 PM | Updated: 8:28 pm

Pine trees in Wasatch-Cache National Forest...

Snow-covered pine trees are pictured in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Millcreek on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023.

SALT LAKE CITY — With the Beehive State receiving an abnormal amount of precipitation, our soil is wetter than ever. One may think local vegetation would thrive, but now in some areas, the ground is becoming too soft to sustain certain trees.

On Monday’s episode of Dave and Dujanovic, with host Dave Noriega and guest host Derek Brown, the wet soil was a topic of discussion.

Brown says the soil is affecting his trees.

“I lost a 30-foot pine not long ago,” he tells Noriega.

He continues saying snow on one side of the tree and the “super” wet ground is what toppled his tree.

“In fact, my landscaper when he was, kind of, walking me through what we do with this … said, ‘I’m seeing this all over the Salt Lake Valley because the ground is so wet’,” Brown says.

What’s happening to the trees?

Utah State University Associate Professor of Horticulture Mike Karen joins the show to give some insight on what is happening to Utah’s trees.

According to Karen, when soil is saturated with water and the wind blows it is not uncommon for trees to fall over. This is especially true for large conifer trees.

“They (conifer trees) have such a dense canopy, they catch a lot of winds like a big sail to the wind,” he says.  “And, when that ground is soft, like it is right now … it’s really easy, then. for those roots to just move out of the soil when that wind pushes on them.”

Along with this, Karen says he expects toppling trees to be a common issue as the spring continues and the weather warms.

Can I save my tree?

When it comes to larger trees, such as Brown’s 30-foot pine, Karen says there is not much we can do to help stabilize them.

“To stake them or put kind of supports in the ground that would have an effect on a tree that large … we would have to have very, very large poles, like telephone pole size things to be able to stake them to,” he says.

However, not all hope is lost for trees that are not conifers. Karen says pruning them can help.

“Sometimes pruning can help by reducing the load of the wind on the canopy,” he says. “But when we talk about the conifers, the canopy on those is usually permanent and it doesn’t really grow back well into the areas where we have removed those branches.”

Beyond all of this, Karen says the best thing someone can do if they are concerned about a tree is contact a qualified arborist.

“There’s lots of  tree care companies in the valley,” he says. “I look for … companies that have ISA certified technicians or ISA certified arborist that can …  better assess trees and their risk for failure.”

Listen to the full segment:

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

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Wet soil making Utah’s ground too soft for some trees, expert gives guidance