I’d like to establish a nice perennial bed under some trees in my yard (maple & cedar). These are old, established, shallow rooted trees and they seem to suck every bit of nutrients and moisture out of the soil. I’ve tried several perennials and the only thing thats survived so far is a couple hostas.
Larry, me too. I have a privacy fence that goes around two sides of a huge old maple. The fence needs some work on it, and I’d like to open it up some and add some shrubs and/or perennials on the south side of it. But the tree trunk is only about 20 feet from the fence line, and I suspect the ground is full of roots. Would it be ok to frame up a raised bed at the base of the fence, or would that also be bad for the tree?
Johanna, If the bed is near the drip line and/or would be only a small percentage of the footprint (rootprint?) of the tree than a shallow raised bed would probably be fine.
However, if you want to plant the entire area or large portion (greater than 30%)under the tree, it is better to dig, BUT dig sparsly between the roots. Try not to damage the tree roots. Plant smaller sized plants in whatever soil pockets you can find. Now that I think of it, growing up we had a VERY large sugar maple in our back yard that my mother planted pachysandra underneath of. She planted little rooted cuttings, so she wouldn’t have to do any digging, just stick in an asparagus fork and slip in the cutting. Every year she would clip cuttings from the thick parts and fill in the thin patches.
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Welcome! I’m Margaret Roach, a leading garden writer for 25 years—at ‘Martha Stewart Living,’ ‘Newsday,’ and in three books. I host a public-radio podcast; I also lecture, plus hold tours at my 2.3-acre Hudson Valley (NY) Zone 5B garden, and always say no to chemicals and yes to great plants.