General Discussion:

Growing Gardens Under Maple trees

Messages posted to thread:

Sharon09-Mar-05 05:04 PM EST 4b   
Patricia10-Mar-05 07:49 PM EST 5   
Sharon11-Mar-05 05:32 PM EST 5   
Patricia13-Mar-05 05:56 AM EST 5   
Valerie14-Mar-05 11:47 AM EST 5b   
Nancy14-Mar-05 03:08 PM EST 5   

Subject: Growing Gardens Under Maple trees
From: Sharon
Zone: 4b
Date: 09-Mar-05 05:04 PM EST

I just moved to a farm last year and have a beautiful line of maple trees bordering both the south and west side of the lawn. I am wishing to plant gardens among the trees. Last year, nothing would grow under the trees. The end of my vegetable garden planted near the trees did not grow. What could be the problem and what can I do? Thanx Sharon

Subject: RE: Growing Gardens Under Maple trees
From: Patricia (
Zone: 5
Date: 10-Mar-05 07:49 PM EST

Hello, Sharon, off-hand, I would say that your two problems are too much shade and lack of nutrients. Under maple trees, you have basically just a couple of weeks at the very beginning of the year - early spring - when the ground receives enough light to grow things. In the woods, under maples, you may find trilliums or other early spring flowers, but that's all. Also, a whole line of maples means an awful lot of roots sucking all the nutrition and the moisture out of the soil. There's not much left for plants underneath. So hey! my idea is leave the area under the maples just "be" and pick a spot with no root competition and with sunshine to grow your vegies and your flowers.

Subject: RE: Growing Gardens Under Maple trees
From: Sharon
Zone: 5
Date: 11-Mar-05 05:32 PM EST

Patricia: Would it make any difference if I brought in new top soil? Both early morning and late afternoon sun shine on the ground under these very large maples....Thanx again for your advice. Sharon

Subject: RE: Growing Gardens Under Maple trees
From: Patricia (
Zone: 5
Date: 13-Mar-05 05:56 AM EST

Sharon: I would say that you should take that nice new top soil and use it to start a garden in the sunshine. My feeling is that fresh soil would help the maples. Early morning and late afternoon sun is not enough for most flowers, and definitely not enough for vegetables. They need full sun.

Subject: RE: Growing Gardens Under Maple trees
From: Valerie
Zone: 5b
Date: 14-Mar-05 11:47 AM EST

You could plant a number of bulbs for a nice spring show.

Hostas, lily of the valley, ferns all would grow under the conditions of a shady maple. This I know from experience. Keep the fallen leaves on the bed in the fall, and they will decay over the winter to feed the plants. As Patricia mentions, the trees will absorb both moisture and nutrients from the soil. Make sure to water well the first season to establish new plants, and mulch with leaves every fall.

Subject: RE: Growing Gardens Under Maple trees
From: Nancy
Zone: 5
Date: 14-Mar-05 03:08 PM EST

There is a good list of plants that will work in dry shade. I have fairly tall maples as well, and under them I have:

Geranium macrorhyzum (white, pink or magenta flowers in late spring), Corydalis lutea (small yellow flowers all summer), Heuchera, Hostas, Wood poppy (native plant with yellow flowers in early summer), Ferns (Christmas and Male ferns are best in dry shade), Violets, Zig-zag goldenrod , Epimedium, Pulmonaria

I'd also echo Valerie's comments on the leaves to build up the nutrient levels, or in general using a good mulch to hold moisture in the soil. And whatever you do, don't build up soil more than a couple of inches over the roots of the tree. You can damage the tree if you smother the roots with as little as 6" of extra topsoil.

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