Cyber Tips -- Tree root pruning

We need to prune the roots of trees encroaching into fairways. We all know to trench in the drip line, but are there any other tools that do the job and make a smaller trench width? I am looking for suggestions and contractors.
— Jim Hulett, superintendent
Phoenix, Ariz.
CC 22-year GCSAA member

A vibratory plow is the only way to go. They also have combo rigs (trencher/plow) that work very well if you have areas where the plow can't be used and if you have slopes to work. The trencher is offset, so keep it on the uphill side while plowing, which will help hold the machine on the slope and keep uphill wheel spin to a minimum. Don't crowd the machine too hard because when you contact a big root, the wheels will slip and leave spin tracks in the grass. Also, be ready to back off when this happens, and let the ripper shank cut its way though the root. Wheel roll ripper mark in three passes. One pass on each side of slot and then one down the middle should leave hardly a trace.
I don't know what type of trees you have, but I would suggest at least a 40- to 60-hp machine and an 18-inch or 24-inch shank -- as narrow as you can get (1 inch works great). Make sure no other utilities, irrigation or control lines are in the area before you start.
If rental yards can't fix you up, try telephone or irrigation contractors. Telephone contractors should have all sizes.
— Bob Jones, superintendent
Francis E. Warren AFB (Wyo.) GC
nine-year GCSAA member
I don't know how this will work for you in Arizona, but in Tennessee we run a vibratory plow attachment on the back of a trencher to root prune trees. There is no trench to refill after the operation. You will want to roll down the small area it raises up where the plow travels. The soil needs to have good moisture. If it's too dry or the turf is weak, the plow may pull up big chunks of soil. If big rocks are within 1 to 2 feet of the surface this procedure probably will not work. I suggest going at least 4 feet from the edge of the fairway to buy yourself three to four years before it has to be done again. We also go 4 feet from car path edges that have trees nearby to prevent roots from damaging the paths.
— David Stone, superintendent
The Honors Course
Ooltewah, Tenn.
27-year GCSAA member
A vibratory plow is the way to go, but I don't know if rock or stone would be a problem in your area. It's fast, and there is virtually no clean up. We contracted with a local cable operator in the winter months to do it for us. They supplied the machine and operator for about $30 to $40 an hour. All we did was paint a line on the ground that we wanted trenched, and he did it. The entire golf course was done in about 2 days. If rental companies don't have the machine, check with some irrigation installers in your area. The machine we used would go as deep as 18 inches and did a fantastic job.
— David McCallum, superintendent
The Island CC
Plaquemine, La.
16-year GCSAA member

Cyber Tips is adapted from messages posted on the discussion forum in the members-only portion of GCSAA's Web site at www.gcsaa.org. For more tips from superintendents, see Super Tips in this issue.