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Planning a new garden, but have a question...

Posted by cathybru z6 PA (My Page) on
Fri, Jul 23, 04 at 12:49

We've finally bought a house I love and never plan to move from. I don't have a huge yard but it is fairly decent sized. I would like to put in a shade garden along the back half of the yard. This area I would consider to be partial to full shade.

Now for the question. There are three trees in the area I would like to plant in and I want to keep the trees. They are well established, mature trees. Two of the trees are actually twined around each other so are effectively one tree. The problem is that there are large roots which are breaking ground that I do not want to damage (not to mention, I think it would be a pain to dig around). My plan was to build a raised bed on top of the soil around the trees and use this to plant in. Will this damage the trees? My husband thinks that this will shock the trees and might kill them.

How deep would you recommend the raised bed be made? I was thinking 12 inches would be plenty as I wouldn't be putting bottoms on the bed, I just want to give the plants some good soil to establish themselves. I have plenty of compost, leaves, mulch etc.

Any comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Cathy

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Planning a new garden, but have a question...

Definitely 12 inches on top of the tree roots could do serious damage, up to and including smothering the roots and killing the trees! I have never added more than an inch or two under trees and I keep it to leaf mold or light soil mixes with lots of peat and compost in them. Water - or lack thereof - is as much of a problem as anything under trees so I lay soaker hoses to make watering efficient and plant near the hoses. I think you are likely going to do less damage digging planting holes than you would if you smothered the roots with 12 inches of soil. My backyard garden is primarily under old white pines, a juvenile red oak and a mature green ash. I let the pine needles, ash and oak leaves stay where they fall in the garden and mulch the leaves that fall on the lawn area and add the chopped leaves to the garden beds. That's enough to feed the plants and soil without smothering the trees. Everything grows great there. When I started the garden area under the oak, after I removed the grass I did add about 1-1 1/2 inches of very light soil mix but that was all. I was very careful to keep it away from the trunk flare (where the trunk meets the ground...) as this area is where trees are very vulnerable to damage.

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