Grounds Department prepares to save trees for Centennial Plaza

Tech is scheduled to break ground early summer for the development of Centennial Plaza to be located between Derryberry and the RUC. This project will feature a large multi-purpose plaza, small patio spaces, a stage for outdoors productions, a commissioned sculpture and much more. Paramount to the character of the plaza is the preservation of the oaks and magnolias, which occupy this space.

Thus, the Tech Grounds Department is initiating a proactive program to make the trees as healthy as possible for this exciting project. Just as a runner begins training well in advance of a marathon, we are implementing a program to enhance the health of these trees.

Please, do not be alarmed when you see the grounds staff performing maintenance tasks to these trees. We are going to do everything we can to save these trees.

The subject trees are essentially in good health, but are showing signs of moderate decline. Some of the primary issues are poor soil conditions, lack of sufficient food source, girdling roots and compacted soil. Much of the soil on campus is clay that is depleted of needed mineral value, the natural food source for trees. Without natural occurring humus material to provide beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizea to the trees, their health will continue to decline.

If the trees go into serious decline, their natural immune system will not function properly, inviting virus, bacteria and a host of destructive insects to attack and eventually cause death to the tree.

The compacted soil issue is due primarily to the proximity of numerous sidewalks and the extreme amount of foot traffic that occurs around the root zone and drip line area surrounding the trees. This compacted soil greatly affects the trees health by not allowing sufficient air and water to be distributed to the tree roots.

Because of these various issues and the development of the plaza, a preventative maintenance and preservation program has been designed and is being implemented. This will involve dead limb removal, pruning, cable and brace installations, soil de-compaction, insecticide application for flathead borers and bark boring beetles, root growth hormone therapy, deep root fertilization, basal excavation with root pruning and growth regulator.

The first step will be to prune all the trees. Some need simple dead wood removal and thinning. Others need subordination or removal of co-dominant leaders, structural pruning, storm damage repair and weight reduction pruning. Two of the magnolia trees and one of the red oak trees will require cabling. Each tree will receive trunk flare excavation, girdling root removal and root pruning. Subsequently, each tree will benefit from soil de-compaction and vertical mulching applications. Each tree will also receive a basal drench technique. This insecticide application is to deter the same insects that have attacked the large black oak tree located northeast of T.J. Farr causing serious health issues.

Hopefully, this article explains the procedures that are being performed to insure the long life, health, and aesthetic value for these trees, which will become an integral element to Centennial Plaza.

Ultimately, this same maintenance program will be implemented campus-wide. There are many trees on campus that need these same procedures performed. Some of these trees are young, others are in their prime and have many more years of life ahead of them, and some are of historical, emotional, or significant value due to their location, age, mere size and shade value to the campus.

Please bear with us. Our goal is to establish the Tech campus into a premier environment, one we can all take great pride in. We apologize for the noise and any inconvenience we might create. My staff and I consider it an honor to serve as stewards for the Tech campus and we welcome any and all input as to how we can improve the landscape quality.