Lately, we experience a victory in our never-ending battle against spruce roots.
Our region, so recently scoured by glaciers, geologically speaking, has very thin top soil. This means that our trees anchor their great height with widely spread root systems rather than growing deep in the ground. This causes all kinds of problems for those who live among them and hope to grow vegetables, or even lawns.
We have very little grass on our homestead, none of which we cultivate or mow. As such, we don’t worry much about roots in the yard, except when they risk our health.
Because the soil is so thin, many tree roots grow on the surface of the ground, or even above it. We often trip on those that grow above. When we can, we cut them off the trails, but we all learned early on to watch our footing and avoid them. Both Aly and I grew up doing this, playing in the forests of Southeast Alaska as children.
These roots can also be slippery, particularly if the bark has worn off the root, exposing the smooth wood underneath. On a wet day, we risk slipping laterally on the roots in the paths. I must pull groin muscles an average of 2 or 3 times each year in this way.
For a while, we’ve navigated around several roots in the front yard, between the cabin and the veranda. These roots are dead, and their bark sloughed off, leaving prime slipping hazards right in a much-traveled path.
Finally, I decided to do something about it.
I cut them at each end using a hatchet, an ax, and ratcheting loppers as needed, along with a shovel to pry them free of the ground.
It didn’t take long for me to pull them out of the yard and toss them in the brush. I didn’t bother to rake the yard smooth afterward, as our regular traffic will soon pack the surface back in place without any special effort.
I got off easy, because these roots were dead. The live ones give us much more trouble, as cutting them away doesn’t keep them from growing back. This wreaks havoc in the garden especially. A healthy portion of all work in the garden is devoted to hacking out spruce roots to keep them from choking our raised beds.