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Bed under a shade tree

Posted by tgmccallie z7a NW GA (My Page) on
Tue, Apr 30, 13 at 21:47

I have a large Maple in my back yard. I have made a circular bed with River Rock. My island in front and other beds are all made with river rock also, so I want to keep with the design.

My question is this: The grass will be killed out and removed from the bed. Since it is under a tree I plan on planting hosta and shade loving plants. Do I dig down some in the earth or do I use a synthetic mesh material in the bottom? If I use the mesh then the earth up to the top of the river rock will only be 6 inches at the best. Will this be enough earth since the roots will not be able to penetrate the mesh material?.

Thanks for your help.

Tom


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Bed under a shade tree

First- have you tried digging around back there yet?
Maple roots can be very difficult to work around.

No matter what you decide, do not bury the roots under a layer of soil! You never, ever change the planting depth of a tree.

Best bet with a large maple is to dig out small planting pockets as you can find the space between roots. It won't be easy.


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RE: Bed under a shade tree

One of the few justifiable uses of a durable, non-tearing mesh fabric is separating non-biodegradable mulches, like rock/stone, from soil. Mainly so that when one discovers that they really don't like the rock mulch all that much, removing it is at least possible without making a huge, grand mess with rock and soil mixing together on their way out. Or so that the next person to "inherit" the property can undo the rock mulch and retain their sanity. For such a use, the fabric would go on top of the soil and the rock would go on top of the fabric. How one would fit plants into the scheme is not known here. There's no use in having any fabric mesh at the bottom of a planting area.

What cearbhaill describes is an almost universal condition of many (maybe most or all) maples. While it's generally not a good idea to raise or lower soil below the canopy of a tree, quite a good many people raise it a little (for the purpose of planting something without fighting with tree roots) and get away with it. (Keep in mind that new tree roots will grow into the newly raised soil so that later, one cannot dig in it again without having the fight with roots.) It seems to me that the best solution when one wants plants growing below trees is to use cearbhaill's advice on finding small pockets where one can carve out small planting holes. And then, to use vining groundcover type plants that will spread sideways and fill in the spaces where planting pockets could not be carved out. I can't envision the planting scheme here as it wasn't described in detail, but if one wants rock mulch, it seems that one wouldn't want it completely covered. Seems to me that complete coverage by groundcover would look better than partial coverage by rock mulch and a few sparsely situated plants.


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RE: Bed under a shade tree

I have planted things around the roots of our large, established front yard birch trees. They are still plugging along, ten years later, although I probably need to water them more than I do!

The things that worked best, for me, was to use VERY SMALL plants with very small root systems. There were tree roots everywhere so I couldn't plant anything large. Also, bulbs that don't need to be deep (paperwhites do well for me) and iris, since the rhizomes like to be near the soil surface. I have Dutch iris, Spuria iris, and Bearded iris under the trees.

Then generous applications of mulch/wood chips to keep the weeds down. It never occurred to me to use any type of mesh or root barrier, and I've had no problems at all except maybe some bad plant choices ;-)

This post was edited by melle_sacto on Wed, May 1, 13 at 14:30


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RE: Bed under a shade tree

I planted the most beautiful impatiens around a front yard small maple. (Huge now, five years later) I did as an above poster suggested, in pockets around the big roots.

They did really well the first two years, and then the maple roots just turned into big monsters and sucked everything from the impatiens. Nutrients, water. It became impossible to plant them, because those roots took over.

The only thing left was to keep adding layers of soil on top, but it was a losing battle. Not trying to discourage you, just know that maple roots are the boss, not you.

I think the roots will burst right through that mesh. My opinion. Unless you have a more polite maple than I.


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RE: Bed under a shade tree

There is no picture here to show, but I am guessing that we are dealing with a Norway maple that is a shade tree and not something fine that someone planted. You can make a raised bed so that you have some soil to actually dig in and plant in, but no mesh fabric will matter so why waste your time. Maybe you can move your little bed a bit away from the trunk and exposed roots of the tree, don't try digging there, it's no use, but if you locate a small raised bed a little ways in front you can screen that rooty area from sight. If you plant shallow rooted things and water them they will live for the season. My experience is that the norway maple is a threat to the plants you are trying to grow and not the other way around, they suck up all the water and don't let them get very established. But a small raised bed won't hurt one of these they will just sniff at your hard work. Try to locate the raised bed outside the drip line as much as possible. Maybe you could put your hostas etc into attractive pots and place them under the tree? My yard is not flat, and I filled a rut, a six foot hole with soil and put in a small rhodie and three bleeding hearts under a norway maple. There were no big roots there, but I know they must be lurking...it has been fine for two years so far.


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