Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Lack of deep root watering causes "suckers"

I was driving through town and noticed a few yards that have a problem with suckers popping up all over their yards. One of these yards didn’t have any trees in it at all. I suspect that there once was a tree which has since been removed, however the root system is still producing “suckers”.
Surprisingly, this is a real botanical name. If you have this problem in your yard, you’re not alone.
This year the problem is running rampant throughout the city. The culprit was our very wet spring and lack of deep root watering. Some tree roots, such as aspen, grow in a shallow fashion and during heavy rain periods, the tree will create more suckers to capture more hydration. Think of it as a tree reproduction “heyday”. Aspen (poplus tremuloides) trees reproduce themselves by creating suckers in nature. The root suckers form dense thickets if not controlled. The shallow roots can extend far from the trunk up 80 feet!
What to do:
First, get out a nice blanket to kneel on or get out your knee pads. Take a spade or nippers and cut the sucker at least 1 inch below the soil. Repeat as needed.
Another option is to buy a product call “Sucker Punch”. It is applied directly to the sucker, either by spray or direct application with a brush. Sucker Punch RTU (ready to use) is made from the plant growth regulator napthaleneacetate (NAA). The product is pricey, but it has a reasonable record of success.
To help your tree roots grow down vertically rather than in a shallow horizontal way, deep root watering is suggested. With this form of watering, a large steel rod is attached to the hose. When it is inserted into the ground, a light water pressure is turned on. This puts the water directly where it is needed and encourages the plant to stretch down to hydrate. Most deep root water/feeding tools have great directions for use included. They are also an effective way to fertilize.