Help with bed

stoc zone 6 swedenApril 26, 2013

I'm wondering if I am doing this right. I am going to have beds that run on the edge of lawn,
I have been digging and am finding lots of tree roots.Some place I can't get the shovel down much more than around 6-7 inches.There is a White Birch tree,another flowering tree,don't know it's name.And several small trees on the edge of the property line.

I plan on amending the soil with about 3 inches of new topsoil,3 inches of compost and 3 inches of this stuff called Barkmull. Which is used as a soil conditioner. I am not going to do anything under the Birch tree as I don't want it to get any ideas!

So even if I can dig down in some spots,will those 9 inches be enough if you add on the 6 that I can get the shovel in?

I also remember seeing someone mention that some hostas cope better with tree roots.Which ones?

I just want some reassurance as I am new to this and want to make the best possible place for my hostas.
Any input would be appreciated.

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MadPlanter1 zone 5

The amending is great, the tree roots aren't. I've been fighting with mine for a couple years. They actually grow through the hosta's roots and suck up all the water and fertilizer I give the hostas. You can carefully cut a big circle around each hosta a couple times a year trying to sever all the tree roots, dig them up every coulple years and remove tree roots, let them fend for themselves, or plant in spin out bags. They're made of a fabric that repels tree roots. Turn them inside out for hostas- dig a hole, fit the bag in, fill with amended soil, and plant your hosta. They're supposed to be used to keep trees in pots from getting root bound. What you want is to keep the roots out of the pot, so the repellant side goes out.

Can't tell you which ones tolerate roots, but I'm sure the experts on the forum know.

Here is a link that might be useful: Spin out bags

    Bookmark   April 26, 2013 at 9:31AM
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stoc zone 6 sweden

Thanks for the advice! I'm in Sweden and can't find the spinout bags anywhere.
I'm going to dig up as many root as I can.

It has made me rethink my plans for planting.I don't think much is going under the Birch.

I think I will take a picture of the area tomorrow and post it.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2013 at 11:50AM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b


The only Hostas that might do better in heavy tree roots are those that are more mature. Even then some of those will decline if the tree roots are very aggressive.

There are a couple of things you can do. When you water, water the entire area including the root zone of the trees Similarly when you put down amendments or mulch,amend the entire area including the tree root zone. If you just give special treatment to the Hosta areas then the tree roots will grow there. They will find where the good stuff is and then compete for it with the Hosta roots.

Mad Planter is correct about severing the tree roots with a sharp spade. Just make sure you have a wide enough circle around your Hostas.

If you see a Hosta that looks good one year, start to decline, dig it up take out the tree roots clear the area and then replant. Some trees coexist nicely. You can plant right up under the base of an Oak. But other trees especially Norway Maples have a very aggressive surface root system.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2013 at 4:41PM
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James, That may have been me that mentioned that I had some success with growing Elegans and family in an area with root competition where other types have failed. Steve is right, they were also mature divisions, not TC babies. Just recently I read that Sieboldiana (Elegans group) had thicker roots that could compete better in a shade garden - but that is the only place I read it. However it is consistant with my experience, so I pass it along.

I water like Steve says - all over under the tree, not just the hosta, same with fertilizer. When my DH fertilizes the lawn, thats when I fertilize the garden, so the tree roots should grow in all directions and not just toward my hosta. I use a container right under my tree for hosta, and plant my hosta a good 8 feet away from my maple tree (the worst kind for roots)

Happy Planting

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 10:02AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

welcome to the GW hosta forum ......

wish you would have found us.. BEFORE you started digging

i would have told you just about the complete opposite from how you are doing it ....

but what can you do.. other than go for it ....

good luck


    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 4:02PM
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stoc zone 6 sweden

Thanks for all the advice. I thought I wasonly going to have battle slugs!( I am going to order the Nematode and put that out when it is warm enough.)

Ken,you already welcomed me but I will take another one.

As I live in an apt. building and have gotten the management involved,they are delivering all the amendments I asked for,wonder if there is some way to kind of discretely lose all that stuff.Hahahah.
I will do what you said and amend the tree area as well.But I was getting kind of nervous as I have read that it can mess a tree up if you muck around with the surface soil too much.

Their is an 80 something woman in the building and her sister planted the Birch many years ago.She will kill me if any thing happens to it.

I am posting some pics of what I am working with.There was also a scrub tree in the back corner which I got them to take down.There was also a leak in the building so mini bulldozers and such have pretty much wreaked havoc back there.They are going to put sod down next week. (The building behind is having the facade repainted.)

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 6:27AM
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stoc zone 6 sweden

That opening in the fence will be put back after the sod goes down.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 6:30AM
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stoc zone 6 sweden

Another view

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 6:34AM
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stoc zone 6 sweden


    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 6:35AM
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stoc zone 6 sweden

I was planning on putting a bed next to the walk and then some more in this bed.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 6:41AM
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stoc zone 6 sweden

And then to the right along the back fence...

Do you think IKEA shopping bags would be good to plant in they are super tough?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 6:43AM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

Yes on the Ikea bags.

Seriously, James. Be careful with those trees. You don't want to bury those roots. You can top dress with an inch or so of compost, but don't put 6 inches of anything on there if you want those trees to live.

Notice that the birch goes into the ground looking like a telephone pole. You can't see the root flair. Whoever planted it didn't know better. I would leave a 4 ft circle around each tree and use pots in those areas if you want to dress them up.

It looks to me as if this soil is very compacted. It needs to be loosened and aerated. That could be done with a spading fork (ouch my back!) or a tiller (not too close to those trees). You could also grow radishes. I'm serious.

Start with that area on the other side of the walkway and see if you can aerate that first. Don't use sand. Don't use gypsum. Incorporate compost and then mulch it. Below is a link to info on soil compaction.

Here is a link that might be useful: Colorado State U Extention Service

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 7:35AM
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MadPlanter1 zone 5

You don't have all that many trees, and they aren't big, so root competition might not be a problem. It looks like the construction equipment has done a good job of compacting the soil and might even have buried the trees a little. If so, the trees may not live long. I'd just dig in your amendments and give the bed a good mulching when you're done. If the trees have more than 2-3 inches of extra dirt around the trunk, pull it away and hide the height difference with the mulch. If the trees die, blame the construction equipment.

No, don't grow in IKEA bags. (Terrific looking bag, by the way.) Hostas love to be damp all growing season, but very dry during dormancy. The bag would hold water and you'll lose plants to root rot.

Post some pictures of the finished garden!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 7:46AM
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What a fabulous place for a garden. Whatever you do, don't get discouraged. It will look so much better planted and so many people will benefit from walking by a nice garden instead of just plane turf grass.

Happy planting,

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 9:02AM
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I think spin-out bags are chemically treated (lead?) which keeps tree roots out. You could put drainage holes in the Ikea bags, but the tree roots might find their way in.

I have Elegans planted right at the trunk of Norway Maples in 2 spots and they thrive.

Pics from last year-

Newly planted clump. Coming back fine this year.

This Sieboldiana Elegans has been in this spot forever and I continually divide it up for new spots and to give to neighbors.


PS- you can put several photo links into one post. You don't need a post for each one.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 9:21AM
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stoc zone 6 sweden

Thanks so much for all your responses and encouragement and advice!

I actually went back there today with a spade and it was easier to dig than I first thought.I think what I am hitting is a lot of rocks.This part of Stockholm is built mainly on rock.

I think the pics may make the soil look worse than it is.They have just taken the leftover sand from the construction and placed it in the area where grass sod will be put down.They told me they are going to add another layer of topsoil.

Thanks for the link Steve,very informative.
Most of the work was done when the ground was frozen,we only really had a thaw about 2 weeks ago.

When I dug last week I actually found worms.I think the back area probably had old outdoor toilets at some time as I am finding bits of tile and brick as well.

Thanks for the tip about Elegans,I hope she will one day look as nice as yours Jon.Very inspiring.

Beverly,I will definitely take pictures when I have everything in the ground.

Thanks for the encouragement and advice Madplanter.

The hostas I have ordered are coming in May so I will post pictures of them.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 2:45PM
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MadPlanter1 zone 5

I hope the construction workers aren't planning to just leave the sand and dump more topsoil on top. Those trees look like they're buried already. It doesn't take much to kill a tree - a few extra inches of dirt or having the roots run over repeatedly can do it. Dig down until there's a natural widening at the base and hope for the best.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 3:26PM
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stoc zone 6 sweden

They have an area marked away from the birch,the other little tree already looks like it's on it's last legs.
I will try to talk to them.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 9:22AM
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The big tree on the right in the 4/28/2013 6:30 picture looks quite dead. I would ask the crew to please remove it.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 11:58AM
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