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Tip of the week: When saplings grow into big trees

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This question from Pet in Springbok has made Don MacAlister realise that we don’t often think far enough down the line.

This question from Pet in Springbok has made me realise that we
don’t often think far enough down the line. 

Dear Don, as you can see from my photo the wall is badly
cracked and pushed out because of a tree. Have you got any ideas
of how to fix it, even temporarily? It’s a very long wall! 
Unfortunately, there is not much that I can do to help Pet, but it
has made me think about planning, especially as I went to look at a
similar situation which had been reported as a possible insurance
We must remember when we plant trees that they are going to
grow, creating future problems for ourselves or our property’s next

We need to consider
● Damage caused by roots. I always ask the garden centre what
kind of root system the plant will have when it grows. Obviously,
something that goes straight down is best. Remember to worry
not only about foundations, but also sewerage pipe runs etc. Roots
can be trained up to a point by putting in barriers when you plant,
which will deflect their movement. 
● The expected end size of the mature tree/plant. If it is going
to end up with a trunk diameter of 400mm it is not a good idea to
plant it 100mm away from a wall. Similarly if it is to grow 6 metres
tall don’t plant it under your eaves. 
● The sturdiness of the tree. Is it going to bend and sway in the
wind? Tree branches that are far away from a building in calm
conditions can end up ripping off roof tiles or gutters when the wind
picks up.
You would be surprised how much damage is caused by lack of
planning around trees, and to
make matters worse, a lot of
the damage is not covered by
your insurance policy. Also keep
an eye on things and get hold of
the people who own a tree that
may be threatening to damage
your property. The council is
responsible for looking after
trees they have planted on your
pavement and your neighbour
must ensure that his trees are
not damaging your property.
Over the years I have seen
some novel solutions to coping
with problem trees, like building
walls around them with
openings left for the branches.
Just remember the tree keeps
growing and moving in the

Handy Mac, aka Don MacAlister, is our expert on household DIY issues. If you have a question for him, please send it to or SMS only to 082 446 3859. Find Don on FB:
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