Tag Archive: roots

kapok tree via green reniassanceKapok Tree via Green Renaissance

Old School Gardener

PicPost: Furred - up Arteries

Picture via Sociedad Argentina de Horticultura

Old School Gardener

Depending on the shade amd soil conditions many plants can be grown under trees
Depending on the shade amd soil conditions many plants can be grown under trees

This week’s question is one that affects many gardens- the impact of trees on other planting. Jenny Bough from Gateshead asks;

‘Part of my garden is in shade for most of the day because of trees in a neighbour’s garden. Since I cannot remove the trees, what can I do to improve the conditions for my plants? And what plants will grow well?’

If the trees grow close to your garden the shade will probably be dense, and the soil may well be permanently moist from overhead drip. If so, you can improve the drainage by adding coarse grit to the soil under the tree and plant moisture- and shade- loving plants such as hardy Ferns, Primula species, Violets and Periwinkles. If you have lighter or more dappled shade then there are plants which like these conditions: Lilies, hostas, Azaleas, Rhododendrons and Blue Poppy (Mecanopsis) for example.

Epimedium- a good choice for dry shade
Epimedium- a good choice for dry shade

If the tree is close to your boundary, or indeed within your garden, and its roots make the immediate area very dry and shady, then plants such as dwarf Cyclamen (C. hederifolium), small-leaved Ivies and Epimedium should do well. You could also try to dig out a few pockets where bulbs can be planted. If you can mix plenty of compost or other organic matter  into the soil then many more options are open to you as the soil will be relatively nutritious and will retain moisture better. The London Orchard Project have added a helpful piece of advice:

‘Wait until the tree has established before any underplanting is carried out. Then be sure to plant perennials,  as (these), including trees, prefer a fungally dominated soil, whereas annuals prefer bacterial domination. Also, disturbing the shallow feeder roots of the tree can be minimised by not having to replant/remove annuals.’

Some trees produce roots close to or above the soil surface, which then send up new shoots or ‘suckers’; e.g Poplars. If you want to grow grass over these root runs, once again the best approach is to ensure a good depth of topsoil above the roots and so give the grass a good layer of soil to grow on and reduce the chances of suckers appearing. Another approach- and one I’ve used in Old School Garden under a large Black Poplar tree- is to cover the immediate surrounds of the tree with landscaping fabric and then use a decorative aggregate or other material as a covering (I’ve used purple slate). This has reduced, but not entirely removed the problem of suckers appearing. Alternatively, there’s nothing else for it but to keep pruning/mowing off the shoots as they come up. This is best done in early summer after the tree has put on its initial growth spurt- doing it in the dormant season will only encourage more suckers to appear in the new season.

Some trees (in this case a Maple) will send out shallow or surface level roots from which new shoots or 'suckers' will grow
Some trees (in this case a Maple) will send out shallow or surface level roots from which new shoots or ‘suckers’ will grow

Further information: a useful guide to tree care

Old School Gardener


PicPost: Bottle it up

PicPost: Roots

Picture taken at Stourhead, Wiltshire

Old School Gardener

Looking good- Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)

Looking good in Old School Garden at present – Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)

 Planning your crops- to rotate or not to rotate…

Well, I guess that I’m sold on the benefits from rotation. Basically, you reduce the chances of persistent pests and diseases building up (which affect a particular plant or group of plants) and you manage the demands placed on the soil from different crops (and in the case of peas and beans actually stand to replenish, or if not that, then at least not deplete the store of Nitrogen).

Fine in theory, but it’s posed a real challenge to me in planning my crops in the kitchen garden. I’ve survived to date (just) with hasty diagrams on odd scraps of paper and scribbled ideas about what to grow where. To be quite honest, I’ve become muddled about what was previously grown in the different beds, what needs to follow what and whether I should manure, fertilise and/or add lime….sound familiar?  With just the two of us at home to cater for it’s also been a bit difficult avoiding growing either too much or too little of the right things (generally the former).

Part of the problem is that my Kitchen Garden is divided up into a number of raised beds of different sizes and aspects, so it’s a challenge fitting things into the spaces available. I also feel that it’s important to max the growing potential by putting in follow-on crops once early harvests of things like Broad Beans, onions and early potatoes have been ‘garnered in’.

Then there’s the issue of focusing on what we like to eat (sounds simple, eh?). Over recent years we’ve had mixed results:

  • some rather exotic looking French Beans which turned out a pretty yellow on the plant and then went a sort of beige when cooked- not inviting,
  • peas -they seem to involve an awful lot of trouble for not much reward
  • main crop potatoes– they take up a lot of ground and don’t taste that different from a large bag bought for a fiver…

So we’ve started to focus on the crops we like (with a bit of experimenting), things that can be expensive to buy, freezables for the winter months (Courgettes come to mind) and some particular varieties that ‘float our boat’- Mangetout for instance in preference to those whopper peas that pigeons seem to rather enjoy!

So yesterday (after pruning the apple trees), I spent a couple of hours drawing up a proper diagram of the plot, tried to think through what could go where (once I’ve taken permanent crops like fruit, Rhubarb and Asparagus out of the equation)- and also whether there’s potential for second crops in some areas, too.

I’ve tried to follow the rules on rotation (brassicas following legumes, potatoes following brassicas and onions and roots following potatoes), but I must admit it’s a bit hit and miss, taking all of the other variables into account! What’s your experience and do you have any sure- fire tips to help me?

At last, a cunning plan for food growing in 2013! (I hope)

(click on the image to enlarge and see a panorama video of the garden as it looks today at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZ20lLrTLIc&feature=youtube_gdata_player)

kitchen gdn layout

P.S.  A note on manure:  if you can get some well rotted animal manure it could be good to either dig it into your beds or just lay some on top for the worms to incorporate into the soil. I’d be careful about putting it down everywhere though, as root crops like carrots and parsnips don’t like freshly manured ground (they tend to fork and not grow well in the heavier conditions that are created). However, ‘hungry’ cops like potatoes, brassicas (cabbages, calabrese, cauliflower, broccoli), courgettes, squashes and legumes (peas, beans) would all benefit from some, as would a greenhouse if you’re planning to grow tomatoes. Ideally it needs to be obtained and placed or dug in in the next few weeks in order for the weather to break it down and help to incorporate it into the soil.

Further information: Vegetable Gardening for Beginners: The Complete Guide

Quizzicals: answers to the last two…

  • Private part of a old crooner Periwinkle
  • The organ that enables you to say ‘2 plus 2 = 4’Adder’s Tongue

and just for fun two more ‘gardening ditties’:

‘Pepper’s got a brand new bag’

‘Spice Oddity’ (topical huh?- thanks Les)

Old School Gardener

A view of the Kitchen Garden looking west- east (left to right on the diagram)


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