Issue: May 31, 2003

Raywood ash - distance from foundation?


How far away from the foundation of my home should I plant a Raywood ash tree? Will it be invasive to the foundation? It was just delivered and measures 10-feet tall. It will be planted on the west side of my house. Luis O.


The roots should not be as great a concern as the branches. If the branches grow to rub against the house, it will damage the tree and perhaps the house. If you keep the tree at least 20 feet from the house, this should be sufficient to avoid problems. This is farther than the branches will spread because this tree has a very upright growth form. The extra distance beyond the ultimate branch spread will help dissipate heat from the west side of you home, helping the tree to establish and grow. The roots will extend much farther from the trunk than the branches; however, if your home has no leaks under the foundation, the roots will not grow in the dry soil under the house. The worst that would happen is that the roots will grow up to the foundation and then run parallel to the foundation. It is possible that in time the roots can apply great pressure to the foundation, but if you keep the tree far enough from the house (at least 20 feet in this case), this is not likely to damage the foundation. Another factor to consider is proper soil preparation before planting the tree. The soil around homes, especially tract homes, is often compacted by the construction process. Roots cannot grow properly in compacted soil and will be forced to grow over the surface. This is not good for the tree, the lawn, and perhaps the foundation. Loosen the soil over as large an area as feasible before planting the tree. This may be done by rototilling. If there is an existing lawn or other tree roots in the soil, it may not be possible to rototill, but the soil may be loosened by first moistening the soil, then pushing a spading fork into the soil and pulling back on the spading fork to crack the soil. It is not necessary to turn the soil over. This process may be done after the tree is planted. Loosening the soil facilitates root penetration of the soil and results in a healthier tree. Also, please join us on Southwest Yard & Garden, a weekly program made for gardeners in the Southwest. It airs on KRWG in Las Cruces Saturdays at 11:30 a.m., repeating Fridays at 1:00 p.m.; on KENW in Portales on Saturdays at 10:00 a.m.; and on KNME in Albuquerque on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. Send your gardening questions to Yard and Garden, Attn: Dr. Curtis Smith, NMSU Cooperative Extension Service, 9301 Indian School Road, NE, Suite 112, Albuquerque, NM 87112. Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. NMSU and the U. S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.

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Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!