Sitting area under oaks - what to use for 'floor'?

pam29011August 26, 2010

We have spent the better part of today cutting down a slew of little trees and now I can see the big oaks in our yard even better. I was standing between 2 of them that are about 20' apart and thought it would be a great place for a patio or someplace to have some chairs.

The oaks in question are over 3' in diameter and seem really healthy. Whatever I use as a floor under the chairs needs to be tree-root friendly and nonmuddy (bare earth won't work). I thought about gravel, but these trees will drop a TON of leaves & acorns in the fall, so ideally it would be something I can rake leaves off of and gravel gets messy.

If it helps, here's some background on the yard:

2/3 of an acre

Currently densely wooded with a mix of tall skinny trees and massive ones, plan is to remove all skinny trees and keep the big ones.

Behind our yard is a wooded buffer then a farm (real, live, operating farm)

Grand plans (aside from removing several dozen skinny trees) is to underplant with white dogwood and mountain laurel in the shady parts of the yard to keep it feeling like a natural woodland and feed local critters.

Removing skinny trees should open the canopy enough that I can grow veggies in one part of the yard to feed us.

backyard faces due South.

Other residents in the house include a dog and a cat who are fully fenced in (yes, even the cat can't escape, it's Alcatraz back there).

Any ideas?



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Well if your oaks are anything like mine the last few years... you could carpet the area between them with acorns! Anything like mulch, sand, or gravel will eventually grow tons of tiny oak trees.

A raised deck might meet your needs... no rooting medium, root friendly and sweepable.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 6:32PM
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Oaks are VERY sensitive to changes around their roots.

Anything that doesn't take a lot of fill or compacting ... a low wooden deck on extremely short piers would work.

Then plant a few dogwoods near the deck for screening.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 6:38PM
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Thanks, Isabella_MA and lazygardens!

Lazygardens - quick question. You write that oaks are sensitive to changes around their roots. Do you think they'd be harmed if I used some gravel to level the area for a low wooden deck? Of all the options (deck, patio, mulch) I like a deck best. It warms up quicker in the spring under your feet & just feels cleaner than the other options (again, thinking about walking on it barefooted).

I'm thinking gravel b/c if I use a thin layer of gravel (2" - 4") I can set PT 4x6 beams in place & lay decking over them directly. No footings, no piers. So it would be close to the ground & wouldn't dig near any roots, but it would add the weight of the gravel (and the deck) to the roots.

Understanding your limits as a garden psychic (IOW - if you're wrong I won't come blaming you) - do you think the oak trees would be okay with that? Or are they more likely to get sick and/or stressed?

Thanks in advance,

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 11:46PM
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"Do you think they'd be harmed if I used some gravel to level the area for a low wooden deck?"

Depends on the species, but I wouldn't risk it. Your idea of "sleepers" on gravel will mess with the drainage under there. And the sleepers will rot quickly.

You don't need to level the ground - you just need to level the tops of the piers, put crossbeams between piers and add the deck boards. If a pier is in a low spot it will stick out of the ground more than if its in a high spot, but you don't see that under the deck boards.

Home Depot sells "deck footings" or "deck piers) you can bolt your deck framework to - just dig enough of a hole to make them level and plop them in.

Look up "building a ground-level deck" and just ignore the part about leveling the ground.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 9:25AM
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Thanks! I think that is what I will do. You're right, I had forgotten about the deck piers for a floating deck. I can keep the overall height pretty low that way & won't disturb much soil (or roots).


    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 9:48AM
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Eh. I'd just use mulch and snip all the babies at the ground once a year.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 6:57PM
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