Raised bed on top of walnut tree stump

steff442(8b Portland OR)January 26, 2011

I am new to gardening, but would like to try my hand at growing veggies in a raised bed this year. I have a black walnut tree stump exactly where I want the raised bed to be, and I was wondering if it would kill my tomatoes, peppers, etc?

My plan was to cut the stump down to ground level, cover with plywood, plastic, or cardboard, then put my raised bed on top of it. Would this work? Does it matter which of the aforementioned materials I should use? Should I remove the sawdust or would it be ok to incorporate into the soil?

Any advise would be appreciated. Thanks!

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The sawdust juglone will disappear quickly, but the stump itself (and the large roots) is another matter. They need to degrade a lot before the juglone disappears. Tomato roots go down to 4 feet, so a root, and not the stump, may kill them.

There are two things that you can do to mitigate juglone. The first is to make sure the stump is well colonized with fungi, so that once you bury it under a fertile bed, its decay will go fast. The second is, in the stump immediate vicinity, you should plant only vegetables that are juglone-resistant. Any squash, melon, or watermelon, chard or beets, garlic or onions, any bean, any chicory, they will all manage.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 9:00AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I would strongly suggest you find another location. It would be a real shame to put so much work into your garden when it would be starting out with 2 strikes already against it.

If that is simply out of the question, then as glib suggested, limit yourself to resistant plants. Your production and plant health will still be affected as they are just resistant not immune to juglone.

Another, but expensive option, is to have the stump and the majority of the roots dug out and the area refilled with lots of fresh soil.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 5:12PM
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How big is the proposed bed and how big is the proposed stump,

use cardboard and plenty of it,wet it between layers (get the "decay" ball rolling)

Keep us informed, so the next guy can use your wisdom that you are going to gain from this experience.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 5:17PM
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steff442(8b Portland OR)

Hrm... I was kind of afraid of that. I have very limited space in my yard, and the exposure right where that stump is would be ideal. Anywhere else, and I run out of space and exposure is limited.

The bed is around 4 x 5 1/2 ft. The stump is about 3ft in diameter. The tree itself was chopped down around 3-4 years ago, and I have planted tomatoes right next to the stump for the last 2 years without any problems before I read about the ill effects of juglone. Did I just get lucky? Or do you think that the stump had broken down just enough to plant next to it?

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 6:28PM
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Here is my experience with a live BW. The plant must be on top of a root to suffer, which possibly means that juglone does not travel much in the (clay) soil. Still, it seems impossible for a tomato plant (which is really sensitive to juglone) to grow in such a restricted place without intercepting a root, most plants extend underground as much as they do above. Is the area well composted and moist (all things that speed up juglone decay), or the soil rich in organic matter? It would seem like your juglone is gone.

Welcome back Dave. I was wondering if you were OK, you have not posted in a while.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 6:58PM
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steff442(8b Portland OR)

Lol! *Shrug* I don't know what to think now!

I know very little about my soil. I know its always wet until Summer due to our lovely Portland climate. I have not amended with any type of compost, although I plan to add some homemade compost to the planter box.

Maybe it IS rich in organic matter. Weeds grow wonderfully in my yard! The area in question collects leaves in the fall due to the stump being in relatively close proximity to the fence. Yuccas grow all around the stump (Im planning on trying to remove those as well - that's another challenge).

Maybe I will just go ahead and try it. I have a couple of tomatoes and peppers that I have Winter sown, so I can afford to have a casualty or two. I think my biggest challenge will be that the stump would get in the way of root growth, esp in tomatoes. The raised bed is only a foot deep. Hmm...

Thanks so much for all of the advise! I guess I will try it and see what happens.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 7:48PM
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If I can add my 2 cents worth? I have been gardening for some 30 years in the same spot an that over the root area of next doors two black Walnut trees. I have to disagree with the roots supposed problems, as I don't suffer one bit from being over the roots.
Where I have suffered, in the past, is allowing the trees to over hang the garden, putting the plants in the 'drip' area of the trees. I now call in an arbourist to cut back any overhang, much to the neighbors chagrin, they resent my obvious delight when I cheer the guys on.
I firmly believe it is the drips, plus the black gunk formed around any of the green nuts the squirrels bury, which supplies growth inhibitors to the plants.
Now you know why I have a blitz on the squirrels every year and pick up any green nuts I find.
My garden does grow well.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 8:18PM
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The only thing I see is there could be watering problems I have an underground concrete slab under part of one of my beds and keeping that part watered is some harder than the rest but my bed is only 6 inches deep. IMHO if you grew tomatoes there then it is good to go. I just remembered rotting wood can be a sponge.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 8:53PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

If it was !my! garden, I'd go ahead and do what you want to do... That stump wouldn't slow me down. I put a raised bed over a green ash stump...have no idea whats going on under there, but the plants above have done fine.

I'd try to cut the stump as flush to the ground as i could.

I say do it, but I don't let much slow me down.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 10:20PM
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steff442(8b Portland OR)

Lol! I like your attitude, Frank! I'm also the type that won't let anything slow me down. I leveled my yard and put in an above ground pool, built a french drain around it using a yard or so of gravel I hauled myself, graded the remaining yard myself, built the raised bed, and have learned to winter sow all of my plants for this year. My back hurts, but I'm proud of what I accomplished single-handedly.

Im gonna go for it, simply because I have alot of plants to spare. Gonna level that stump as much as I can with a chainsaw. *Gulp* I just hope I have enough room for the roots of my tomatoes, since they will probably end up directly over that stump. I have very little wiggle-room here. Sigh...

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 10:49PM
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Two things:

1. You like TANKS Attitude, that's the side of him that doesn't get bogged down ;-)

2. Why not just start taller, try two feet...works for me ;-)

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 10:57PM
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steff442(8b Portland OR)

My apologies...I like TANK'S attitude! :D

Wow, that's some srsbznz right there... Makes my one little planter look puny. Awesome pics!

I may just try to up the ante a bit and make it deeper like you say. I made mine out of scrap lumber from next door, so I guess I'm gonna have to scrounge outside of my postage-stamp to find some more. Not only am I tenacious, I am also cheap! Heh.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 11:20PM
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The fact that it is Portland matters. Rain, and 12 months growing season for fungi (underground). Decaying wood does have excellent water retention, and roots of plants grow right into it. I am saying this so you don't kill yourself over that stump. I have a spruce stump in full sun, covered in thyme, and never water or fertilize. Live and learn, who knew juglone could go this fast? Go for it...

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 11:26PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

My beds are built using 2x8s (treated/but painted)...I built them because my soil is almost beach sand. I filled them with city compost (mostly composted leaves) and then topped them with a thick layer of wood chips.

That tree stump will rot over time and slowly turn into nice rich soil. I know my garden in late spring/early summer is full of mushrooms from all the wood chips.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 11:41AM
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steff442(8b Portland OR)

Well, then. I am totally gonna go for it. I will just cut the stump as level to the ground as I can, move the planter box where I want it, plant my veggies, and see what happens.

Thanks, guys...you all are awesome! I appreciate the advise and support from each and every one of you. If I think about it when everything is taking off, I will try to take some pics with my crappy phone and report back to you all.



    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 1:14PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

beeman is correct about rainwater run-off from foliage AND branches being an important source of juglone. That's the case with almost any plant with allelopathic properties. But the roots exude juglone, too.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 2:29PM
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