Need Plants Fast-Growing with Strong & Deep Roots and

rugrunner9June 3, 2008

For what it's worth, I am VERY new to gardening.

I am looking for plants that have strong and deep roots to loosen soil without tilling. The faster they grow, the better. Since faster-growing is important, that rules out bushes and trees for right now. Looking for vegetable plants, herbs, decorative flowers, green manure plants, etc.

The Japanese Radish (& possibly most radishes) seems to be a good one. Others that I'm not quite sure of:







Hairy Vetch

Hairy Indigo

When you are looking up the details of various plants, root strength and depth doesn't seem a priority characteristic to list. Can anyone confirm or deny that those on the list above have strong, deep roots? Any other easy-to-grow plants fit the bill?

Thanks in advance for the help!

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How about Dandelion and Chicory- both edible and will grow anywhere and have long, strong roots. Comfrey is also a valuable herb that grows fast and has strong, deep roots. It can be chopped down several times each season and used for very fertile mulch.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 8:23PM
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madmagic(dtown Toronto)

From my reading online about green manures, the general concensus is that cereal crops, especially annual rye, grow the fastest and most extensive root systems.

Alfalfa is also said to be good for deep rooting but many of the sources I've read suggest growing it for two years instead of just one season.

Buckwheat is often suggested for rapid growth and production of large quantities of organic materials, but it requires warm day and night temperatures.

You may find a mix of a cereal and a legume to be worth exploring, it's a common practice in agriculture.

All the best,

Here is a link that might be useful: Overview of Cover Crops and Green Manures (ATTRA)

    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 10:17PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Heres the conundrum, strong and deep roots typically take a long time to build, so plants with those types of roots generally not considered "fast" growing.

While they are building roots the top growth is usually minimal.

You may want to check out the Native Plant Society of Texas. They have a cool interactive plant selection thingie.

Here is a link that might be useful: Native Plants of Texas

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 10:44AM
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Thank you all so much for the clear, concise answers! It has helped me to better organize all the info swimming around in my head! I will be checking out the links and researching the specific plants.

After my original post, I accidentally found a post on another forum listed parsnips, white clover, chicory, and field beans are good for breaking up soil. I don't know if "field beans" is a general category or a specific bean--my guess is it's general.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 11:31AM
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I would suggest sunflowers. They have an extensive root system that is known for breaking up soil. This quote was taken from the following website:

'Grow deep rooted plants in your rotation to break up the soil and bring nutrients up from deep below: annual alfalfa, beet, sunflower, okra, flax, turnip.'

Added bonus is that you (or the birds) can eat the seeds.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to build up nutrients

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 12:54PM
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To my knowledge, field beans area a specific type also known as fava beans. Anyway, I gardened in Tx a few years ago and if your soil is that heavy clay gumbo that I had I don't think you can get away with no-till. I'm sure there are people who will disagree with me, and cover crops are always a good idea, but that clay gumbo is too heavy to grow much of anything without heavily amending with compost and turning over either with a fork or a rototiller (which you can rent). Maybe once you get a good base going after tilling for a few years you could get away with no till.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 11:25PM
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I would agree with Kris. That heavy concrete-like clay is very workable with just the right amount of moisture. Wet it, get lots of organic matter on it, till it once, then grow some favas or some of the other plants suggested here and you will get much better, faster results. You'll probably never need to till it again.

IMO, organic matter is the only way to deal with Western clay soils.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 11:43PM
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cccatcrazy(Z4 NY Catskills)

After a winter thaw/flood quite a while ago, the 25' or so of lawn and shrubs bordering the creek that runs through our lot was destroyed, and we were left with almost 10,000 sq feet of exposed, aluvial clay. When the weather was wet, the water didn't drain off -- puddles stood for days. On dry spells, the clay turned to hardpack, scoured by the wind, the air filled with dust. Nothing would grow on it or in it -- and our financial resources were such that we couldn't throw money at it.

The next spring, we stuck hundreds of willow sticks into the mud,took rakes and scratched the surface in as many spots as possible. We strew vetch and clover seed, together with annual rye and crossed our fingers. And blessed be -- some of it sprouted. Little skimpy plants, most of which bloomed in June and died during the August drought, leaving little tussocks of dead flora. But the following spring, the field was graced with much more vetch, much more clover, daisies, brown-eyed susans, black raspberry bushes and these clumps of long grass that the birds must have brought. Every year since then, the "meadow" has improved, and is providing more and more diversity in the wild flowers and grasses that have made this new meadow home. And meadow it shall remain, bordered on the stream edge by a thick willow "hedge" (providing several nesting sites for birds this spring). A wide swathe of Jerusalem artichoke, day lilies, tansy, bee balm and other so-called invasives hide the straggly old fence that keeps the deer out of the veggies.

We don't manage or mow our new meadow. We continue spreading the weeding debris from the veggie garden to compost and add character to the soil -- which is certainly does -- including a neat patch of goosefoot and some garden cress, which add variety to our table.
Our veggie garden, by the way, is box beds on top of several inches of gravel on top of that hard pack.

I know I have drifted away from the subject, but the meadow and the swathe were planted pretty much into that clay, with only some sand and composted manure to loosen the soil around the artichokes and daylilies when they were originally planted.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 4:52PM
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Happens I went to a cover crops day last Thursday. Listed "subsoil looseners" are alfalfa and oilseed radish (Raphanus sativus). The fastest growing in my experience are yellow mustard and buckwheat, but they don't have deep roots. A good compromise might be cereal rye that has "massy" rather than deep roots. The problem with alfalfa is that you would want to keep it for 2 to 3 years to get the most benefit, and then it would really have deep roots. Rutabaga have really deep roots -- like up to 12 feet -- but they aren't very fast growing. Regards, Peter.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 8:35PM
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