I have a Catalpa tree in the center of my yard. Today the neighbor showed me it's roots are showing in his (vegetable) garden. He went looking for it after noticing that his crops were smaller at the edge, and that the soil was dryer on that side, too, in the summer.

Knowing that the tree is about 6 years old, and it's crown has a radius of about 3m, and that we barely cut it, is this excessive rooting to be expected?

What can I do to to show my tree some 'manners'? Prune it? Cut the roots on one side? Lead the roots elsewhere?...

[EDIT] I have the role of the 'other party' in this question.

  • Is it a northern catalpa or some other kind? We have plenty of northern catalpas around here, in western Idaho. I haven't noticed a root problem with our northern catalpa trees (and my neighbors across the road with much older ones seemed to have great success in their garden. So, that seems unusual to me, but I don't really have any idea if that's usual. Granted, we haven't been digging around a lot near the trees, and we have a dry climate. Commented Nov 15, 2014 at 23:36
  • "the center of your yard" - so how far out are these roots, to cross into your neighbor's yard? You give the radius of the tree, but not where it is WRT the property line. If it's all of 6 years old and already causing neighbor problems, it might be the wrong choice for where it is.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 2:12
  • @Ecnerwal: you're right. My yard is 10m wide, the tree is in the middle. So the roots expand over 6m, so 1m over the border.
    – xtofl
    Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 20:39

1 Answer 1


Whether these are the roots of your tree or some other tree does not really matter. Most tree roots grow within six inches of the surface. For sake of peace with your neighbour follow these easy steps:

  • sharpen a spade or shovel
  • dig a slit trench approximately six inches deep along the property line with your neighbour. Sever roots cleanly.
  • place a root barrier in the trench. You need an impermeable, non toxic material that does not degrade. I favour 45 mil EPDM pond liner as seen here as it is easy to cut and work with.
  • back fill the trench with soil
  • overseed with grass or mulch as you prefer

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