Return to the Woodlands Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

Posted by carrie630 z7bNC (My Page) on
Wed, Jan 16, 08 at 21:19

I have three acres with lots of woods in the back...

Here's my question:

How the heck do you garden in the woods? There are so many trees and roots... do you use raised beds? Do you grow around the big trees and fill in those trees with bagged soil and/or compost?

Thanks

Carrie


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

I usually do add some bagged soil (the kind you get for $1 a bag) when I'm planting something. It seems to work better although for the life of me I can't explain why!


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

You see my woods are filled with leaves and if I rake them back, the soil is really hard - maybe a half an inch soft, the rest is really hard. So you must be making raised beds (?)...

If I were to plant in my woods, I would have to bring in truckloads of dirt..I must be missing something.

Carrie


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

  • Posted by kwoods Cold z7 Long Is (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 17, 08 at 11:27

Most healthy woodlands basically have three layers, canopy, understory, forbs. The species of trees comprising the canopy is important. If the canopy lets in very little light or if the trees are very thirsty it is difficult for an understory to develop. What kind of trees? Sometimes it helps to learn about the "ecoregion" of where you're trying to garden. In other words, historically what's supposed to be growing there? What kind of woodland used to be there historically? North Carolina has coastal plain, piedmont and the Blue Ridge mountains. If you find this approach interesting you might want to use this map (this is a pdf file and takes a while to load) of North Carolina's physiological ecoregions as a starting point.

Truckloads of dirt might work well for a little while. Pocket plantings would probably work. Thinning the canopy might also work.


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

If you are trying to "garden" in the woods it may a futile effort. Along the same line as kwoods suggest, you may want to change your focus from gardening to woodland management.

Manage your woods in such a manner that you promote the growth and diversity of the understory. I am not familiar with woods in NC...so I can't offer many specifics.

But I agree with kwoods that you need to learn about the ecology of area and try to work with that. One suggestion, find a local nature center and learn as much as you can from them about how they manage their property. It may be something you can mimic on your own.


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

I'm not making raised beds. I'm usually just adding some ferns that I got on plant rescues. Occasionally I'll add a native shrub or small tree that I rescued. Not really "gardening" in the woods so much as "enhancing" the diversity and improving the quantity.

I clear away the leaves, dig as much hole as I can (I use a serrated shovel so it cuts through fine roots). Settle the plant in and the mound the soil from the bag around the plant, a little in the hole and around. The effect is that the plant is a bit raised from the original soil level, not much.

It does seem that the natural soil level is a bit low and I guess that is what I'm trying to overcome.


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

I have planted things in the woods in "pockets" also. I could recommend hepatica, hexastylis, phlox divericata or stolonifera, ferns, bloodroot, trillium, none of which need much room to get started if you soil is not hardpan. I dig a shallow spot, put in the rescued plant with a little of the soil from its original spot. I cannot do this with bought plants as there is too much soil, and I don't want to bareroot it as I am afraid I will kill it!I add composted soil that we make at home or bought stuff if I have run out. I have had great success with these pockets, and I rarely but into many roots...might kill those trees. Yes, this does raise the plant slightly, but with rain they usually find their spot. Trilliums do have contractile roots, so they will continue to push down. I have found them UNDER roots and curved so that they can find the spot they want. Amazing how they grow in the wild!


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

Interesting - thanks

I do lots of garden borders outside of my woods and I always wondered about this forum - I find it interesting. We actually have enough to do outside of the woods, but I have created paths, put containers near trees and have built a couple of raised beds with bricks in the woods, but as far as digging a hole - no, never did that.

Thanks

Carrie


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

Not at all a silly questions Carrie, as I have the same one myself. I have been trying to figure out how to get some spring bulbs hidden along the woody path near the rock formations without doing damage to the roots. I have some great looking dirt except it's all rooty and everywhere you dig, I do mean everywhere, is a rock or two. I'm afraid to cut the roots to dig a hole as well.
So, my question is, can I do bulbs in a pocket as well? What do you recommend? I'd like to have them naturalized, ya know, like God put them there??


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

Claytonia virginiana takes hardly any room. It is a spring ephemeral that can carpet a woodland if it receives enough moisture. I have it in a fairly dry area, and it has spread, but not as much as it would if it were moist. Phacelia seeds can be tossed out in the fall. They are biennials, and I have them started in what really is a fairly dry place. But, as most woodlanders, they really prefer moist. I also have some small non-native bulbs that are doing ok, but I no longer plant many aliens, and I cannot remember what they are. Some of the larger bulbs require digging down more, but I have put some in very shallow spots because I just got tired of digging, and they have done ok. They, too, are supposed to "find" their own depth...and do eventually, if they don't die first. Ha, ha!


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

Good comments above. Some plants are better than others for woodland gardening. Woodland natives for your area are best. Loads of soil on top of tree roots will hurt some kinds of trees so research is needed as always. Here in NY we have bloodroot and mayapple volunteers which have so far managed to survive the onslaught of invasives. Ferns generally dont' require deep digging - at least if you buy them small. I have some prairie type flowers growing a few feet from a big oak and other trees but bordered in front by grass and open road that are doing well. Maples are said to have a lot of greedy roots near the surface. I have also noticed a large number of different woodland plants that have different active periods growing in the same square yard or foot of soil - some how they all live in the same area; below ground it must be a tangled mess. I threw some native partridge pea seeds on the soil around a lot of wood edge areas and much of it sprouted and survived in spite of no help from me.


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

With all of this wonderful input, wouldn't it be nice if your forum had a "Gallery"?

I am usually on the wintersowing forum and would love to see your pictures.

I wonder how you can get a Gallery for your forum? Ask for it?

Carrie


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

Sorry to disagree, but this is definitely not the silliest question I have seen on this forum. Please refer to the "which leaves make the best toilet paper?" thread.

In most woodlands you can't dig the soil like you would in a normal garden. When you want to plant something, it is usually necessary to be flexible on the exact location. I find that by probing around a little with a shovel I can usually find a spot where I can dig a small hole, but digging a large hole can be impossible in some woods. You have to work around the roots, rocks, and other stuff that gets in the way. Certain types of trees are harder to dig beneath than others. Some hardwoods like oaks may tend to have fewer shallow roots, allowing easier digging, while maples, beech, magnolia, spruce, and many others tend to have shallow roots that make for tough digging.

Many woodlands, even very lush-looking ones, are growing on shallow, hard, rocky, or otherwise poor soils. I have not found many woods with deep, rich soils. Still, plants that are adapted for the soils you have will thrive. First you should learn what is growing in woods similar to yours in your area. These plants are good choices to start with. Once you get a feel for how to plant and what will grow, you can try a wider variety of plants. Keep in mind that the growing conditions can vary a lot even within a small yard. You probably have some areas of richer, moister soil and other places with rockier, drier soils. Knowing the soil will help you decide which plants to try and where. It takes time to get used to the soil, but you'll figure it out faster than you think.

Finally, is your soil is barren or hard, adding plenty of mulch can help improve it without disturbing the trees. I like to add lots of fall leaves to areas I want to plant. After a couple of years of thick mulching with leaves, a nice layer of humus will develop and you can then plant in this layer.


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

The section I want to plant along has one huge hemlock, a couple of oak and maple and the rest is all mountain laurel and rhodies. I have some really nice natural rock formations as well.
Some of the laurel and rhodies are small and bushy like but some are really tall and spindly from fighting through the mess for the sunlight I guess. We had an ice storm in 94 that wiped out half of the laurels and that is what I have been working on cleaning up.
I have left a lot of the dead standing trees for the birds and just because they are cool looking. (I'm thinking they would look cool to decorate at halloween and take the kids on a haunted walk) I have trimmed them to above my height if they are near the paths I'm working on. Some I have piled up to use in the chipper to make my own mulch for the paths and I use a lot of the wood as kindling for the fire pit. Dried laurel makes a really good fire.
Sorry, I kind of got off track. I have a little patch of natural lily of the valley, I've seen several lady slippers and tons of uvularia, Can I transplant these along the paths or would it be better to just leave them where they are? I've heard lady slippers don't like to be messed with. I don't want to turn it into a lush garden over there, just a nice place to wander through the woods and relax on the benches and enjoy the view.
I would also love to see some of your pictures ;)


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

It is true that lady slippers don't like to be moved, so best to leave those where they are. If you are creating paths you could make sure that a path goes "near" the slippers so you can see them. Lily of the valley is not native so perhaps it is something else? Check out a picture of Solomon's Seal and see if that is what you have. If so, it is easy to move and so is Uvularia.

Since you are leaving some snags for the birds, consider also leaving a few brush piles. Birds and some critters love those (and need them to escape predators) as well.

I would be surprised if the ice storm killed off the laurels, it may have severely "pruned" them but they usually come back from the roots (and can be very bushy at first).

Sounds like a fun project. I don't have any pictures of my woods, but my goal is to make it look like you just stumbled upon a natural area (with paths!).


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

Esh,
There is a native lily of the valley: Convallaria majuscula/montana. It is not the garden plant that most of us know. It looks like it but does not form the colonies that the European one does;it is scattered. I have it growing in the mts. and found a few sites here in the Piedmont. It goes down to GA, according to Ritchie Bell.


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

ncrescue, thanks for telling me that. I am glad to learn something new. I looked up pictures of it for future reference. I'd be interested to know if that is what garden_junkie_carrie has or an escaped patch of European lily of the valley.


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

Esh,
I was hesitant to post the above as in the year I have been on GW you have shown yourself to be so knowledgeable, esp. in ID'ing plants from photos. I am not ready to do that...have only been a somewhat serious native plant person since I retired, seven years ago, and had no botanical background whatsoever. I DID have a lot to learn, and am still doing it! BTW, I had to double check via some books as I thought maybe I was not remembering things correctly. Hey, with this weather, my summer jaunts in the field seem so long ago.


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

I agree about the natives, and lady slippers are beautiful. We dont have any of those growing, they take specific type of conditions that we dont have on our property.
You could consider bulbs. Although you would have to put screens around them to keep the mice and chippys from eating them. By the time spring bulbs bloom, the leaves are usually still bare where I live, so they get lots of sun, not sure about NC. Still would be feasible if its not a heavy upper canvas.
30 years agoOur woods was full of flowers . Thats before we owned it. Now there are just a few. We are trying to restore it.


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

Thank you, ncrescue, that is exactly what I have here. I have a good sized patch of it out back by the fence and I've seen it in several other places here too. I knew it had to be natural as nobody has ever lived on this land but us, it was used to store junk and equipment from a construction company for a good 20 years. Right beside the fence is a hay field with no close neighbors.
I did have a large patch that was filled with creamy and pinkish colored lady slippers but while we were moving the house in, the workers parked their trucks and equipment on them and they have never came back. Now I just find them scattered here and there.
Thanks, cynandjon, for the advice on the bulbs and good luck with restoring your woods :)
Esh, why do you think the ice storm didn't kill the laurels? There is a whole section that are dead, not just pruned, and they have nothing growing from their roots. What are you thinking there? We just assumed it was the ice storm. I've left most of them standing and piled brush up next to the fence where the neighbors cows like to come wandering through.
Thanks!!


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

Well, I'm sorry if they have truly died. When I see them knocked down, they usually sprout back from the roots; some plants can be very resilient. So I was being hopeful ... but if you've determined that they gone, then I guess they are. It is possible that the storm weakened them and then some disease or insect finished them off.


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

Lady slippers often come and go, even without the compaction of those trucks. You may see them later. I have some on my property, and I never know where they will pop up next...and I have not had any construction going on for some time.


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

  • Posted by kwoods Cold z7 Long Is (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 22, 08 at 12:19

Cypripedium acaule, Kalmia, Rhododendron all indicate acidic soil. That's good/important information to know when selecting plants. Search for plants that like low ph.

Any clue which maple? If my guess is correct you could easily thin the canopy and eliminate many surface roots at the same time thus allowing your natives to recover.

You are very fortunate to have conditions where laurel, rhodies and especially pink ladyslipper prosper. Native stands of Hemlock are becoming quite rare, at least here in the NE, as well.


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

In my front woods after the house was built, Iused a roto tiller, removed tons of rcks and added several loads of horse manure. Then no leaves are ever removed. In fact, those from the small lawn, driveway and paths are added. In the back woods I did none of this. I simply dug holes, removed the rocks, large and small, and planted. Then they proceeded to seed themselves around.


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

now THAT'S a plan, thanks waplummer....

Carrie


 o
RE: Ready for the silliest question ever on this forum?

I live in the woods and garden where there is sun, where we had the land bulldozed for our house. I have never worried about cutting roots. The trees can usually deal with minor roots being cut. I do not attempt anything but native plants or their cultivars out there. Somehow it seems wrong. What they do at local nature centers seems nice. Winding paths with patches of native wildflowers and ferns. Many even have reasonable Spring sales.


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Woodlands Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here