Roots sapping my garden

FCVinceJune 12, 2013

I'm new to Alabama gardening having just moved here from Nebraska. I have been a lifelong gardener and know my way around the dirt, but I have came upon something I've not had to deal with in the Midwest. I live in Homewood and put a small vegetable garden in last fall. I put 6" of new soil in over the clay so they'd have good dirt. I noticed that the plants didn't grow well and looked small and anemic. When I pulled up the broccoli I noticed that there were a lot of small roots throughout the whole bed. They almost formed a mat in the soil. This spring I planted green beans and they look horrible, pale green and spindly. I've taken to fertilizing them every week and they look a bit better now. What is this that is stealing the water and nutrients in my soil and how do I get rid of it?

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

How close to your garden are the nearest trees and what kind are they? Lots of people don't realize that the most important part of a tree's root system is VERY shallow and very far reaching. These fibrous roots are extremely efficient at hogging water and soluble nutrients in the soil. Most use the word "mat " to describe these roots.

Does all of this seem like what you're experiencing? If not, I have another scenario for you. :-)

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 1:24PM
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The garden isn't that close to a tree; maybe 20 feet or so. I don't think it is from the tree. In other areas of the yard where I have dug to plant roses etc, the ground has a thick layer of what looks like peat moss. When I tap on it or walk on it, it feels like a cushion of roots. This mass is 3" thick in some places. I'd be interested in your other scenario.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 12:30PM
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I reclaimed an area a few years ago for my garden, and it was loaded with roots in the way that you describe here. One of the most problematic was the roots of trailing bamboo, which I'm still struggling with. They're long and spiky and horrible -- but that doesn't sound like your problem. But they were one root among many.

I ended up renting a tiller from Home Depot and dug down as far as possible and broke up as many roots as possible. It was successful, but it was *a lot* of work (they kept wrapping around the tiller).

If you do that, you'll want to make raised beds and then cover the rest with newspaper and organic material (or lawn fabric). You're going to stir up a gazillion new weed seeds.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 7:13PM
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