Blue spruces in backyard close to home,ok for deck?

dinosaurwiMarch 25, 2010

Our patio is a simple 10x10 cement patio. Behind it the previous owner planted 11 spruces. Now they are getting closer to our patio and to our homes foundation. Is it ok if we build a deck between our home

and the spruces? They are about 2 feet from the patio at the moment. My understanding is that it's not ok to build anything over the spruces roots that need air and water. Is this true? We are trying to make our patio area look more appealing. Since my wife is allergic to mosquitos Ans we can't be out at night as much as we would like and we can't build a deck.....what would be a good idea to make our small patio look better and not an eye sore?

Here is a link that might be useful: patio pics

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Since there is an allergy to mosquitos why not put in a screened in porch? It also looks like you could make it wider. You also could build over the patio I would think or take it out all together. The Spruce look to be pretty mature so I would guess they will be ok as long as you don't go any farther out in that direction. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 11:09PM
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Can you send me a link to a screened porch idea? EWhen you say take it out what do you mean? Thanks for the help.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 10:23AM
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I sure wouldn't take out that size patio, it would last & be less work than a deck. If you only have two feet before trees start that isn't room for deck, could put 1 towards the right with a couple of steps leading up to it off the patio then steps going off of it to go around to front or side yard. Lot of people think they need a deck but they are lot of work. If snow sits on them in winter it can damage them. They require maintenance & my son in Midwest is finding they are lot of trouble & expense. Go to your other post & read what I wrote. You have children so might want to do deck in few years & enjoy fixing up around patio for now. You could put a screened in room from Home Depot (that you take down in winter), next to your patio to left so you could sit & enjoy watching kids play without bugs getting to you.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 1:32PM
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can you send me a link to the screened in room your referring to? When the storms come in our backyard takes a direct hit when its windy, big hail etc.....the only thing protecting the backyard and our house is those you really think a screened in room is the best idea?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 9:23PM
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Well, screened in room wouldn't work but how would a deck with hail beating it to a pulp! Better just go with some shrub protection on side that storms usually come in from. Maybe what you need is to cover the patio with a wood roof & framework it in with windows you can shut in storms & open when nice. You could want wooden walls 1/2 way up or siding covered. If your weather is so bad that would give you more use of your area.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 12:09AM
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When I say take it out I meant the patio and build a screened in porch over the area making it wider along the house. I don't have a link but you can google this. Sorry! And while I'm looking at this, can you thin some of the spruce out. There appears to be alot of them. Back to the porch idea. It is an extention off the home. It can be three season or all season. I think it would be worth looking ino since your family would enjoy having the extra relaxing/entertaining space. And I have to ask: Are the spruces there to control noise? They seem a bit much for the space. Eventualy they are going to crowd into each other. So I might take a few of them out.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 1:34AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

The thing is we have been all over this question already on the forum. The spruces are both the problem and the solution because the house is next to a busy street and the house is quite close to the street.

The fundamental problem is that the spruces are the wrong plant to have as a screen because of their eventual width. Keeping the spruces rules out, in the longer term, both a patio and decorative plantings around it.

When you have a fundamental problem like this, you can do one of three things:
(a) you can work with it year-to-year, adapting incrementally to whatever the spruces throw at you (expanding canopy, expanding root zone, dying lower branches),
(b) you can give up (put your outdoor enjoyment space in the large front yard and give up fighting the spruces for possession of this narrow back yard)
(c) you can win. This would involve either replacing the spruces with a narrower type of tree, or the other excellent idea that this thread has generated, namely building an actual structure over the patio. The only problem with the latter is that you will have to cut spruce branches away from it soon enough, and the inside of mature spruces is not pretty (also probably prime spider habitat). But maybe that won't bother you.

In short, you have a territorial battle going on here between trees and structure.

You asked in the previous thread about underplanting the spruces. This is an (a) type of action, where it doesn't matter much what you plant - it will not thrive and will eventually be outcompeted by the spruce. But that will not make it wrong - you may enjoy them for a few years as long as you plant what is to your taste. It won't change the fact that eventually you will have to cede that ground to the spruces if you keep them.

This time you ask whether you can put a deck over the roots. Again, technically the answer is probably yes, But it won't last long. The needle drop and canopy spread will make it a miserable space.

The difficulty I have in answering your questions is that you sound as if you want to protect the spruces for the longer term, and yet have a nice outdoor space in your back yard. I can't pretend that these two objectives can co-exist. In fact, I know they can't because I had a similar battle for many years with a neighbour's tree. I adapted and adapted and adapted, but eventually you cannot adapt any more and yet the advance of the tree continues to the point where its benefits - in our case the shade provided from the afternoon sun - are so heavily outweighed by the intrusion of the trees that you feel victimized. Finally I had to ask for the tree to be removed (OK, I had to do more than ask, but it's a long story).

And once the tree was gone, it was clear that my years of gradual adaptation - of landscaping and re-landscaping, of hovering solicitously over dying plants, of raking my little patio clear of tree debris a hundred times, of interminably cleaning my eaves or listening to them overflow - had been a complete waste of time from the outset. To anyone who knew trees, it would have been clear that the tree was eventually going to outcompete me and was going to have to be taken down in a very short time. I should have agitated for its removal five years earlier, dealt with the few sunny years until new trees grew in, and enjoyed my better outdoor space far earlier. But I had my reasons for doing all that stuff - for example, my relationship with the neighbours was important to me. Plus, I don't think I was ready to deal with the challenge of building a whole new garden.

The adaptations you make to the spruces are a very personal thing, and that is why it is very difficult for anyone outside the situation to help you. To recommend planting is to recommend a futile act, but if that futile act gives you pleasure or is something you have to do to get through the year, there is nothing wrong with doing it. You can build a deck, you can expand your patio, you can do anything you like. But for someone else to recommend that you do it is something else entirely.


Here is a link that might be useful: Last week's thread

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 2:14PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

I'd go with a slightly raised enclosed porch, 3 season room, or whatever if you like it.

Do be prepared to replace the spruces shortly when they're more trouble than pleasure. If you own any of that land on the far side of them you can even get a few skyrocket junipers or whatever you choose started.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 12:20AM
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One site is the DIY network and at the search site type in screened porches. I Googled screened in porches and all kinds of sites came up. Your local nursery can also help with this. I understand your concern with noise from the street or highway traffic. I also understand what a bad storm can do. I live in Minnesota and get what a bad storm or wind on any level can do. Hail doesn't care and niether does wind. Tornados oh my! Isn't that what home owners insurance is for? LOL! Relax, remove some of the Spruces and possibly build a berm. That is one way that will work to control noise, wind and rain. By thinning the Spruces you will give the remaning ones a chance to thrive. Perimiter ones or at the corners will do thier job to protect the site. Don't rule out the porch as it will provide the family members with some protection from the mosquito. Ok so I introduced the idea of the berm. We have areas along a busy county road that in some areas have four ft. berms. They are planted with tall grasses and perinnials. They are simple and lovely. All are different and reflect the homeowner. Some have stone rocks planted in the berm and others have stone shapes like figurines used in them. Some have only perinnials with ground covers. The point is the sky is the limit. Do what you want. I think you will like the results. Do thin some of the Spruces out for best results. There alot of alternatives to your concerns that you any yours can enjoy. Try the google and don't be afraid to check with the nieghbors and your local nursries and the county extention office. Some times they already have projcets already in place that can save you money and time. That is also a question: Is the area in question property of the city or county? If you own it it is up to you what you want to do. Go for it!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 4:32AM
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You have to allow at least 10'-12' for Spruce trees at full maturity. I would suggest 20' because some will get wider than others. If they are only 2' away now and are still young, it would be best to remove them now before they get to big and you lose your patio area all together. Visit my web site for ideas on patios at

Here is a link that might be useful: All Terra Landscape Services LLC

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 1:03PM
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Just to get an idea.....if I have someone bring a tree spade to rip out all 1 spruces and replace them with something more practical how much $$$ do you think I would add on? How much is a spruce 13-15 ft high worth?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 9:22PM
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Oh I hate to be the doom sayer here but: You probably won't get the $$$ for these, what the cost will be to remove them. Problem is the root syestem is more than likley inter-twined. The age is also a concern. Transplantig with sucsess is in question. Do check out the possibility, as you never know who might be interested. Some but probably not all could be removed and used else where. A good root ball is needed for a decent transplant. Not to mention the watering needs of a new transplant of the size of this specimen. I like your thougts and you should check it out in your area, just don't be suprised if you are met with resistance. Why don't you keep the ones on the ends and compost the others? Or just a few, like three to five and compost the others? Build up the area with some good soil between the Spruces with some grasses and perinnials? Just saying. Good luck! This can be done.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 3:51AM
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Actually a few insured and bonded tree removal companies with tree spades told me that they would either remove the trees and give us money for them plus replace them with something different or they would remove them completely and give us a fair amount.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 10:59AM
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A tree service came by today and here's what he told me.

Blue spruces were planted too close - 6 ft from each other.

We have rocky soil so his tree spade could be ruined. Is he for real?

Techny arborvitaes would look good in place of the blue spruces.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 1:31PM
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karinl, what type of structure are you referring to?

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 2:28PM
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As for structure - Google screened porch and there are immediately 4 pictures of simple(relatively)screened structures constructed on a slab attached to backs of houses.

Ultimately you're going to have spruce branches slapping against whatever you do since spruce have a walloping big groundsweep before the onset of lower branch die off - for me, with my spruce, that started at about the 30 year mark.

It's not totally unreasonable that rocky soil could damage the blades of a tree spade.

You've been given ideas so:
Door #1: Live with the spruce until they either totally take over or some lower limbs die off and instead of trees you're looking at poles planted 6' apart. Effectively screening nothing.

Door #2: You've got a row of 11 spruce - remove the four or five most likely to encroach on the patio in the least amount of time. And have them removed by a bonded, licensed, and insured arborist and the stumps ground so you have the space to start thinking about installing better specimens.

Door #3: Build a screened structure - the Big Boxes probably have kits with easy to follow exploded drawings - so you can at least enjoy your backyard on the meantime. The shade of the trees is actually doing quite a bit to harbor mosquitoes.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 3:32PM
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Building a screened structure is a possibility. Here's the thing. The backyard takes a direct hit from really high winds and bad reliable and strong are these things?

As far as re-planting techny arborvitaes...
The problem I will have with arbs are that if you plant them next to the road they will get whats called salt spray in the in the winter and die. Unless I have them covered with burlap every late fall.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 7:36PM
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What if I take the spruces out that are closest to my patio and put in a privacy fence around my patio up to the hill where the spruces used to be?

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 8:06PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Look, maybe the spruces work for you, or will for a couple of years yet. Especially with cars occasionally coming off the road at your house, I'm not going to be the one to suggest you take them down without having a good replacement plan. A wood fence doesn't offer the same kind of barrier as tree trunks 6 feet apart.

Personally, as I said on the other thread, I would try to plant a replacement row and let it grow in a bit before taking down the spruces, even if it is city property. Depends on your municipality. But you make a good point about salt spray. I'm sure there is a right plant though. Or, you could take out every second spruce first and plant something new in between them, and then when those get big enough cut down the other spruces and fill in those holes. It could even be new spruces, you've got one new one in with the big ones now anyway. So your barrier would be in a state of perpetual renewal and never entirely gone, not the worst thing.

But your priority seems to be to make use of the backyard. I have to admit I don't understand this, given that you have a huge yard in the front that is probably quieter and safer. Maybe it's that your house is organized for easy exit to the back and not the front? Or you'd rather be closer to the road to get privacy from the neighbours?

As for a structure, it can be as reliable and strong as you make it. If you buy a pre-fab from Canadian Tire or your local equivalent, it will obviously blow away unless you pack it away every winter. But if you sink some serious posts seriously deep and build the rest out of serious dimensional lumber with good joinery, it could be as solid as a house.

By the way I think you'll always be cutting those trees down, not selling or moving them. They're common and fast-growing trees so I don't think anyone would have to go to the trouble of trying to dig them out.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 10:41PM
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Karinl. According to the city I will never have an issue of cars going that far up the hill to the spruces. The engineers designed the road behind me much better than it used to be.

As far as why I am set on making the area look better. Why not? Its an eyesore. I want to be able to relax during the dinner, grill some brats, enjoy a few drinks with friends.,etc....its my backyard.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 11:27PM
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Karinl. The other issue about planting below the spruces is what Diggers Hotline will find.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 11:39PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Ah, so the road was worse when the car previously took out one of the trees. Hey maybe you could get the city to plant and maintain a boundary planting on the city land for all of the properties along there so you don't have to have it ON your properties.

I don't understand the reference to Digger's Hotline.

I don't fault you for wanting to make it look better; I just wonder if it wouldn't be nicer in the front given how much work it might be to make the back nice. But I'd probably do the same thing too.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 2:38AM
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As a temporary measure, remove half the trees (alternate trees), leaving more room for the others, and plant the replacement trees. Plant whatever was suggested as more suitable than a tree that ends up 50 feet high and 30 feet wide and when they are large enough to take over, remove the spruce.

They don't tend to re-sprout from the roots, so having them cut and the stumps "ground" is all you need to do.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 7:55AM
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what if I just prune the branches when they get bigger?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 8:55PM
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