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flower beds around trees

Posted by my2boyz mt 4/5 (My Page) on
Tue, Jun 5, 07 at 19:50

I have a question for you all. I have two trees in my back yard that I really would like to dig up the grass and do a two foot flower ring around. The trees are an aspen and I think meditranean plum (?) both about 6 years old and healthy. How should I do this? Dig up the grass and add a couple inches of soil and mulch on top...or I was wondering if I could do the lasagna thing and just layer newspaper on top of the grass, then soil, plants and mulch. What do you all think? I DO NOT want to lose these trees by suffocating the soil.

Thanks,
Tina


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: flower beds around trees

I would suggest digging up the grass first, then a few layers of wet newspaper, then soil and mulch in the lasagna method. I didn't get enough newspaper down after pulling up the grass and now have little patches of grass coming up in the bed.

Dafy


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RE: flower beds around trees

thank you dafy. So, you don't think it would harm the trees?
Tina


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RE: flower beds around trees

Just be sure you don't raise the soil level so that soil is up against the bark. My neighbors came very close to killing their nice large maple by building a foot high retaining wall around their tree, filling it with dirt and planting flowers.


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RE: flower beds around trees

There may be an issue with competition for nutrients. I'm not sure about the best spacing to avoid this, but it's something to look into. I'm having an issue with the grass that has been allowed to grow all the way to the trunk of some fruit trees in our yard.

After I planted a couple of new fruit trees by digging a five foot diameter hole in our lawn and heavily mulching the soil, my other trees are jealous. I have tried clearing the weeds, but didn't want to go too deep for fear of damaging the tree roots. When I put newspaper and mulch over the cultivated area, the grass is still coming through. What's a good thickness for the newspapers to maintain the barrier? Is cardboard another option? If they are fruit trees, how sensitive should I be to the ink on the newspaper? I've heard that black is usually soy-based ink, but colored ink may be a different story? The trees are at least two years old, since they were here when we moved in, but other than a single crabapple last summer, not yet producing.


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RE: flower beds around trees

Regarding, newspaper and ink, I think that the proposed use is similar to newspaper's use as a mulch. Here's what Virginia Coop Ext has to say (linked below): "Using 2 to 4 layers of newspaper provides good weed control. It decomposes within a season and is readily available and cheap. Cover with an organic mulch, such as sawdust or hay, to hold paper in place. Excellent for use in pathways and around newly set strawberry plants. Lead in printers' ink has been a concern of some gardeners desiring to use newspaper; however, printers no longer use lead compounds in ink for black and white newsprint, though colored inks may contain lead."

I've not tried to cover lawn grass. Trying to kill quack grass in paths between beds and morning glory hasn't worked worth a tinker's d--n with newspapers. Quack grass under paper with pine needles on top simply migrated into the beds beside the path - the situation was worse than before I started. Morning glory just worked their way to the surface thru the paper and pine needles.

But, the questions were on lawn grass - I'd guess that 4 layers would be a bare minimum. Just guessing.

digitS'

Here is a link that might be useful: Mulches for the Home Vegetable Garden


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RE: flower beds around trees

Keep in mind that I've only been here for a year and a half and have only been experimenting for a short amount of time.

I definitely would not plant right up against the tree, in fact after we scraped the grass out from around the tree we used river rock (the smaller kind but not as small as pea gravel) on top of the about 3 layers of newspaper in about a 2 foot ring around the tree. Then extended the planting area from that. Having the pea gravel piled up against the bark doesn't seem to hurt and we can put as much as we need to make it even with the planting area around it. We started this just because it was way too hard to mow and edge around the tree.

Cyclewest - I'm not sure on the color ink versus black ink issue, but I've read pros and cons on the cardboard. The person who started the thread linked below says that cardboard decomposes faster than newspaper, but others on that thread said that the cardboard didn't decompose at all. I generally just use the newspaper with the black ink

My2boyz - I have neighbors with aspen in their yard and haven't noticed any problems with the plants they have around them (of course we're lucky if they mow their yard more than twice a month and they never worry about edging or pulling grass from around the trees) Maybe something that is drought tolerant would work around the trees so there isn't as much competition for nutrients

Before

Midway through the project

I need to get the pic of the finished area uploaded so I can link to it, but we extended the bed up to where I'm standing in this pic and have added several more plants this season. Around the rocks around this tree we planted clover as a ground cover since grass never would grow well there.

Here is a link that might be useful: instant beds


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RE: flower beds around trees

Okay - here are the after pics

The snow in summer has tripled in size since we planted it last summer, with creeping baby's breath in front (hadn't bloomed at that point but it's blooming like crazy now)

view around the mailbox from April 2007 (before we extended the bed)

view from the mailbox with the extended planting area and clover filling in around the rocks and tree

view from the behind the tree toward the mailbox


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RE: flower beds around trees

Oooo, that's neat and pretty, Dafy.

d'S'


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RE: flower beds around trees

That is pretty dafy. Well we dug 36 inches all around both trees today. We took out 2-3 inches of grass and tried very hard not to damage roots...but...we severed many. My husband was not concerned and said there were many more deeeper. I will be so sad if we hurt the tree just to add some flowers. I really hope we didn't do a lot of damage. We flipped all the grass upside down so it doesn't dry out and tomorrow I will add compost and top soil. I probably won't use any newspaper and will use weed fabric on top of the new soil. I will take pictures and post them when we finish. I think it will be really pretty. We have a lot of deer so I am still looking at deer resistant/ shade plants. Thanks for all your help:)

Tina


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RE: flower beds around trees

You might check out this thread below, Nancy_in_Co was looking for deer resistant plants and quite a few people had suggestions. I'm not sure about the shade tolerance of the ones mentioned, but I know Skybird has lists and lists :-) so maybe you could post start another thread and see what they have to say.

Good luck
Dafy

Here is a link that might be useful: Plant suggestions


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RE: flower beds around trees

  • Posted by skybird z5, Denver, CO (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 10, 07 at 15:07

Hi Tina,

Im glad to make some recommendations for deer resistant (whats on my list at least) shade plants if thats what you really need, but aspen trees dont usually make that much shadeand Im not familiar with Mediterranean plum treesso watch the area for a couple days and get an idea of how much sun it actually gets. How many hours and what time of day. Most of the plants on Nancys thread are for, or at least can take with enough water, sun. The foxglove, Digitalis, is really basically a shade plant that can take sun with enough water. Even in the shade it needs regular watering. But it would be one to consider. Let me know about your direct sun, and Ill come up with a couple other possibilities. Perennial geraniums (cranesbill) are also shade plants that can take a fair amount of sun with water. Let me know about your light.

One thing I might mention is that youll probably need to water anything you plant right around the trees more than you would stuff planted further away. The trees will be drawing a lot of water out of the soil, so youll need to keep replacing it. Just keep an eye on the area after you plant (as if you wouldnt!), and youll learn pretty quickly how often it needs to be watered.

Also, dont spend any time at all worrying about your tree! (Im assuming theyve been in for at least a couple years) Your husband is right! They have so many roots underground that you probably wouldnt believe it if you could see it. The few youre digging into on the surface arent going to affect the trees at all. Ever since I moved into this house 3 years ago Ive been cutting cottonwood roots out every time I plant somethingwhich is a lotand some of the roots have been so big I couldnt even cut them with the limb lopperI had to actually saw them to get them outand it has absolutely no effect whatsoever on the trees. Like Cnetter says, just dont pile the soil up high around the trunk. So relax and enjoy your flower planting! Your trees will be fine!

Skybird

P.S. Nice job on your project too, Dafy. Isnt it fun to stand and look at something like that after youve finished it? Makes all the hard work worth it!

Here is a link that might be useful: Favorite hardy geraniums


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RE: flower beds around trees

Thank you all and skybird...I'm done;)

Yippee. We really took our time to do it right and pulling up sod is backbreaking! I did not end up putting down shade plants because although they are under trees, like you said skybird, an aspen does not give off much shade.

Well, I didn't have any annuals really anywhere (all perennials), so I just did rows and rows of white petunias (about100 total) with pastel pink nicotania in the back row. I used dark mulch and it looks striking. It will look even better when the petunias fill in. I just plan to spray with skydd for the deer. All my other plants are deer resistant so I just decided to plant what I thought would look nice (although the nicotania is deer resistant, petunias are not).

Thank you all again. I WILL post pics soon I promise.

Tina


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RE: flower beds around trees

skybird's cautionary tale of the cottonwoods needs to be heeded: the moment you start putting little plant feasts under your trees the feeder roots will be foraging.

If you were to consider using half a pail to a pail of compost to a plant when you plant you could make pockets of better soil without greatly raising the level of the soil over the roots.

As the aspen is a pioneer species there is the likelihood that it will tolerate and cope with 'soil dumps' better than a species which comes later in succession. Unless local knowledge says otherwise.

If you were to top up half the proposed bed with compost in the spring and the other half in the autumn - that gives those roots time to plot, forage, get used to the new levels.

If hardy Cyclamen are an option - they can look delightful peeking through the fallen leaves in autumn...

When you are coping with a grass species with a running rootstock, putting down a cover of 3" or more of untreated sawdust can persuade the roots to come to the surface and be forked out quite easily. You will probably have to persist over a couple of years - and add some nitrogenous fertiliser - but it can be very effective. Not so effective with clover spp though.


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