Messages posted to thread:

Michelle. L.04-Oct-06 01:32 AM EST 5a   
marg05-Oct-06 07:57 AM EST 5b   
Shari06-Oct-06 01:23 PM EST 6   
Michelle. L.06-Oct-06 11:01 PM EST 5a   
cathaleen06-Oct-06 11:22 PM EST 3   
Shari07-Oct-06 06:07 PM EST 6   
Brenda09-Oct-06 05:50 PM EST 3a   
cathaleen09-Oct-06 08:49 PM EST   
Anne29-Dec-06 12:10 PM EST 6a   
patA06-Jan-07 03:57 PM EST 3   

Subject: Impossible area for growing ANYTHING!!!
From: Michelle. L.
Zone: 5a
Date: 04-Oct-06 01:32 AM EST

I have an area to the side of my house that I look out at from my kitchen.. beautiful big old trees are there and it is nice and cool in the summer, around the edges of the lawn is a circular flower bed but no matter what I do.. rototill, water, plants do not do well there and some don't even survive for long... the trees take every drop of water so no matter how much i do, they slurp it up, nothing gets down to the roots of my plants, plus they keep growing these little roots that strangle out my plants.. i have tried many things and now I am trying one more before I call it quits!! I have dug BIG holes in the bed, and sunk in big pots and replanted my plants [ mainly hosta's] in them. The outer part of the hole is lined in a thick plastic so the roots don't grow into the drainage holes..does anyone foresee any problems doing this?? They are sunk right in the ground, and as far as I can tell this is my only solution.. what do you think? Would this work? Keeping my fingers crossed, as this area is also off my back deck and is a beautiful, cool and relaxing area in the summer and I would like it to look even better with my hosta plantings!!! Thank you for your imputs in advance!!

Subject: RE: Impossible area for growing ANYTHING!!!
From: marg
Zone: 5b
Date: 05-Oct-06 07:57 AM EST

If the area is that impossible to plant in, why don't you make a seating area out of it? You could plant some hostas and other shade lovers in pots and still be able to enjoy them from a bench. In the summer heat, the shade seating area would be very welcome. We also had a maple that was difficult to plant under so we made a raised bed leaving a 'box' around the tree so we could water or fertilize as needed. Hope this gives you some ideas. marg

Subject: RE: Impossible area for growing ANYTHING!!!
From: Shari (
Zone: 6
Date: 06-Oct-06 01:23 PM EST

Hi Michelle, I can't see any reason why your strategy shouldn't work. Sounds like A LOT of work though!

I wondered if you tried raised beds? That would bring your plants up above the level of the tree roots so the trees won't suck all the water, at least in theory. And raised beds look very nice.

Maybe another idea would be to throw in some hardy groundcover and put your plants in containers as Marg suggested.

Good luck! Shari

Subject: RE: Impossible area for growing ANYTHING!!!
From: Michelle. L.
Zone: 5a
Date: 06-Oct-06 11:01 PM EST

Hi Shari, I hope it works as you are was ALOT of work!!! Almost finished though.. there is a seating area there already and have some ornamental cement deer there too to take up some space, but I need to do those pots as a last resort, I tried the raise bed thing already there and would you believe those roots rose straight up into it??? It's an impossible area like I said, so although a ton of work, I think this latest idea should work!! Some of the area I think i will try some tough groundcover, any idea's??? [ besides lamium and periwinkle???] Thank you Marg and Shari for your suggestions.

Subject: RE: Impossible area for growing ANYTHING!!!
From: cathaleen
Zone: 3
Date: 06-Oct-06 11:22 PM EST

I don't know if you have considered Goutweed? it certainly is hardy, but you wouldn't want it to escape to a less challenging part of the yard - as it can be invasive if planted in a good growing environment. Good thing is they seem to spread only by planting/rootings - so they don't invade unless transplanted to a better part of the yard.I have some under our spruce trees - and it is flourishing and has been contained there where nothing else wants to grow- and I don't water it other then incidentally. I also gives a little height vs the lamium or periwinkle. I would be surprised if it didn't due well in this area for you....the other plant that seems to tolerate neglect and lousy growing conditions is Artemesia. I also have it under spruce trees, and it keeps on coming back, year after year. Good luck

Subject: RE: Impossible area for growing ANYTHING!!!
From: Shari (
Zone: 6
Date: 07-Oct-06 06:07 PM EST

Hmm, too bad about the raised beds.

For groundcover, there is also ivy, and pachysandra - I haven't tried it myself but it is supposed to do well under trees where nothing else will grow. Are the trees deciduous or coniferous? That would also make a difference as to what would grow there.

Oh and I second Cathaleen's suggestion of Artemesia. I put some into my perennial bed this year and it has tried to take over! It gets full sun where it is though so in shade it might not be quite so aggressive. Although I believe it's tolerant of a wide variety of growing conditions.

Subject: RE: Impossible area for growing ANYTHING!!!
From: Brenda
Zone: 3a
Date: 09-Oct-06 05:50 PM EST

I am sorry if this sounds a tad naive, but how DO I start my own thread?? lol


Subject: RE: Impossible area for growing ANYTHING!!!
From: cathaleen
Date: 09-Oct-06 08:49 PM EST


start your own thread - by going to general discussion forum, scroll to the bottom - where it says name of message.....and enter your topic name , submit and go from there......

Subject: RE: Impossible area for growing ANYTHING!!!
From: Anne
Zone: 6a
Date: 29-Dec-06 12:10 PM EST

What I did last summer was to dig up the bed - 15" deep!!! I added lots of compost and raised the bed another 6" to accomodate the extra volume and then before I replanted the hostas in it, I laid industrial strength landscape cloth down, then I refilled the bed.

Oh yes, when I dug them up, I put each in a large plastic bag to minimize moisture loss as they had to spend a week out of their bed. We were having the tree - a huge silver maple pruned, and I didn't want to risk the hostas being damaged during this operation. Then once they were replanted we installed a drip watering system from Lee Valley, as the trees are so greedy and they not only drink in all the water available, the leaves prevent most of the rain from reaching the soil under them. So far the plants have recovered ... even bloomed and the extra water seems to have helped them. Hope this helps in giving you some ideas. Seeing as you already have them in pots, all you have to do is add the water system. We even spent the extra for a timer, so we don't have to remember to water.

I would watch though to see that the hole, surrounded by plastic doesn't get too wet, because then you would get root rot and loose your plants. That is why I used landscape cloth. Water goes through it, and roots are not supposed to.

Hope my rambling helps Anne

Subject: RE: Impossible area for growing ANYTHING!!!
From: patA
Zone: 3
Date: 06-Jan-07 03:57 PM EST

Hi Michelle

Many trees exhibit allelopathy - big word for produce natural plant toxins to keep a big area around them free of competing plants.

What kind of trees do you have? Oak, Maple, Walnut,Pine, Fir, Poplar the list goes on and on. I suspect the circular flower bed was built to coverup an area where the lawn did poorly too.

Your idea of the pots is great but remember to be careful of those BIG TREE roots. Don't sacrifice the trees' health by chopping away at their roots too much. And as Anne said, watch out your new plastic lined holes don't become saturated and your potted plants suffer from being waterlogged.

I've never been a fan of raised beds over tree roots and it sounds like you discovered exactly why. Those trees have a great will to survive and if you place more dirt over the roots they'll just send upwards more roots to keep them at the level where the moisture is. Isn't nature so darn clever!

If you continue to have problems try mulching the area with bark chips (no landscape fabric required)to make it look tidy and use pots above ground level. Over sized pots like the half oak barrels make great mini gardens. They can give an awesome display from spring until fall. It's a bit tough to overwinter perennials in them but you're in zone 5 so you'll have better luck than my zone 3.

Hope that helps, Pat

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