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Help, this root is killing everything

Posted by amyjp OH (My Page) on
Sun, Apr 6, 08 at 15:31

This is my first time here and I hope you can help. 2 years ago I recieved some "clean" fill dirt and used it to make some raised beds. Everywhere I used it is now full of these tiny but indestructible roots. I have been trying to pull them out by hand, but it is just solid. I think it is also killing all my perinneals in those beds. The roots of my plants are just choked with these things. What can I do???? If I just layer mulch (like 10 inches deep) would that kill it? Dig it all out (seems impossible to get it all and my beds are about 20x10 ft. each). Please help... this will be my third year of buying new plants for the whole bed (all other beds do fine, without this fill dirt). I will try to upload an image. Thank you for your time.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Help, this root is killing everything

if you think that is a dead hosta... and you are gardening under trees... why are you ruling out the trees ...

looks like maple roots..

i once backfilled .. with fresh new soil .. three feet deep around a giant maple...

by the end of the summer ... the maple had filled all the soil with new feeder roots ...




RE: Help, this root is killing everything

That particular bunch is close to a maple... but I have it other places, not close to a tree and they have the same thing... ????? If it is the tree, then how do other people put beds around trees?? I don't have this problem around my other trees either. I am so confused. :)

RE: Help, this root is killing everything

  • Posted by morz8 Z8 Wa coast (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 6, 08 at 19:22

Amy, I agree those are tree roots. They are probably headed for easy soil, and moisture if you are irrigating that bed.

Any densely surface rooted tree near perennial/shrub beds can be a problem with maple possibly being the worst (although I've successfully underplanted Japanese maple). Other examples of surface rooted trees are ash, beech, elm, pin oak, sycamore, birch.

RE: Help, this root is killing everything

i had an area where i tore up a small space of willow roots, to plant in that space. after a few months the torn up roots did not decompose, but they made a thick mat of roots. i would find a section with this mat of roots and picked it out of the ground.......the roots were not attached to the tree anymore, but they were still growing - thick.
maybe willow roots?

RE: Help, this root is killing everything

think of two things.. this way ...

first the maple is at least as big below ground as above.. maybe twice ... a large tree has roots half way down the block in my estimation ..

perhaps a bit of an exaggeration.. but prove me wrong.. lol ...

second... every root you cut.. with a shovel.. will be regenerated with a hundred new ... AGGRESSIVE feeder roots ... every time you dig a hole.. you make the problem worse ...

and .. maples are super competitors.. and the roots will grow into the root mass of just about any plant .... and steal all food and water in time ...

visit the hosta forum... and you will learn.. that most hosta gardeners.. do NOT grow hosta .. under maple ... they want to ... but they fail ...

below is a picture of the roots of a maple tree ... i am surprised anything .. including the weed known as grass .. can live atop these roots ...

i grow over 1000 hosta.. when i moved.. the two prime criteria ... even before the house was.. no clay .. and no maples ... and a couple other trees ...

consider growing hosta in pots under a maple... NOTHING ELSE WILL WORK... and the maple roots will invade the pots ... so you will have to move them twice a year or so ...



RE: Help, this root is killing everything

I am the last person to try to help, since I'm battling with mulberry hair roots that are draining all the nutrients and water from my "square foot" type garden. If there is a solution, short of cutting down my only big shade tree here in Arizona, I would really, really appreciate hearing from you. Thanks!

RE: Help, this root is killing everything

I had a neighbor who seemed to me to be digging a grave site. Literally I thought he was going to bury his wife since they fought all the time. maybe that is why he spent most of his time in his yard.
Anyways, a little reluctant, I asked him what he was doing, and he was literally digging a whole about 3 feet wide and 6 feet long by 2 feet deep and getting it ready for a mason to come in and build him a huge pot made of cement walls and a cement bottom with holes. You know for what? You guessed it, the same problem you are all having. He loved his gardening and could keep nothing alive because his trees roots kept invading, or were robbing his plants of water and vital nutrients. In fact they were strangling his plants. Also, they were swamp maple and willows.
He was sucessful. He is finally able to bury beautiful plants in his plot and not thank God not his wife.
I would definately ask a mason for suggestions or even a landscaper.

RE: Help, this root is killing everything

Another good reason to never, ever buy soil from someone. The only reason Hostas will not grow under Maple trees is because the soil is not a good, healthy soil, not because the Maple tree "sucks" all the nutrients (which were not there to begin with) from the soil.
What is the level of organic matter in your soil?
How well does that soil drain?
What is the life in that soil like?
Does that soil hold sufficient moisture?
Is that soil compacted?

RE: Help, this root is killing everything

Thanks for the burial plot advice -- it is probably the best solution -- but it also sounds expensive. I'm wondering if maybe a 4 X 6 sheet of some kind of non-biodegradable stuff, like formica or something might work.
I might ask around the lumber yards here. Thanks again.

RE: Help, this root is killing everything

You can use 4x8 sheets of galvanized corrugated roofing to bury vertically as a root barrier. Make sure you over lap the sheet at least one foot and seal the over lap with generous amounts of heavy roofing tar. Oh, roots of even the largest trees only occupy the top 2-3 feet of the soil.

RE: Help, this root is killing everything

AND (to add to the petzold's comment) travel much, much further than most people would ever believe.

RE: Help, this root is killing everything

It isn't the soil....but the place where you put it--under a tree. And you did it with 10". So much soil is killing the tree.

Without going into a long spiel about why you should not ever plant under a tree in the fashion you did, I suggest you read material on "why you should not put soil under a tree" and how a minimum amount can be placed there.

In as few words as possible, the soil, being so much, is depriving the tree of necessary air and moisture.
The tree's roots have now another source of water---up there where you planted the perennials.

There is a safe method to use where tree roots invade spaces you wish to use. Such method must be followed so as to not harm the tree's stability or its way of taking up moisture.

The tree right now is may not notice it for still some time, but it is being killed.

The remedy is to remove the soil from under the tree down to a depth of 2" or less. Scratch the surface to invite the perennial roots to go deeper. But most perennials do not need deep rooting, they thrive on roots barely under the soil.
It was expected you wish to improve the soil the perennials were growing in....but you should not have put so much soil under the tree.
Pretty soon, if you don't rectify the problem, you might notice some branches, maybe a limb, is deteriorating, losing leaves. That is the start of what will eventually do in the entire tree.
You cant just water the tree more, its still starving of air you are preventing it from taking in.
The only fix is to remove the beds as they are and then do a more low depth of garden.

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