Putting Plants Under Trees

There are many benefits of having tall trees that provide a lot of shade on parts of a property. They help keep temperatures down in areas of a lawn and also assist in allowing the owner of a home to spend less money on air conditioning. Moreover, they can add to the value of the home and property.

Don’t be discouraged about planting a garden under a shady tree.
(Courtesy: ScottyB40 at flickr.com)

However, there is a problem. The trees with their large canopies block necessary sunlight from getting down to the grass growing underneath. They can also discourage you from installing a garden under trees for the same reason. Low branches can also make it difficult to mow around a tree and depending on how thick the canopy is, rainfall is blocked from reaching the ground around the tree. This could affect the health of the tree as its roots compete with other vegetation absorbing what water is present.

You don’t have to give up on the ground that is located under a tree. There are ways of incorporating plants into the area.

For example, you can plant shrubs and perennials under trees at the same time you are planting the trees or do it shortly thereafter. This is because many trees including oak, maple, magnolia, beech, pine, and cherry have their roots close to the surface. If you decide to try to install a garden under a tree after its roots have established, you could damage it.

Moreover, having a particular type of tree may make it impossible to include a garden under it. For example, some types of trees including black walnut produce chemical compounds that are toxic to other plants. So, if you plan to include a garden under a tree, be certain that the tree won’t threaten the plants.

Particular types of plants tend to thrive under trees better than other plants. For example, plants that start off as bulbs like tulips and daffodils can be planted under trees because they bloom before the tree leaves out. In addition, native plants work well under trees. They naturally grow near trees in woodland settings. In addition, hostas and other plants like it do well near the trunk of a tree. In fact, they actually do better than grass. It is more difficult to cut grass growing near tree trunks. Any attempt to try could injure the tree.

If you do place a garden under a tree, it is suggested that you include a drip system so that the plants can get water. There is no need to add extra soil or rototill the soil when you add amendments. It is also recommended that in this case, it would help to use a bit of compost in the individual planting holes and consider using small plants so that the holes don’t have to be deep. It is also suggested that you use mulch soil with 2-to-3-inches of wood chips to conserve moisture and prevent the growth of weeds.

Planting Under Trees

It is recommended that you do not install a raised bed garden under trees. That is because adding soil on top of a tree’s root system reduces the amount of oxygen that can penetrate into the soil. Lack of oxygen can result in the death of the tree’s root. Raising the amount of soil can cause other problems including bark decay from moisture held in the soil against the trunk. Bark death and decay can result in wood rot that reduces a tree’s strength and shortens its life.

Instead, it is recommended that you create ground bed plantings. This preserves the health of the tree. If you need to enrich the soil, spread a 2-inch layer of organic matter on the soil surface. Compost or well-rotted manure will work. Incorporate the compost or manure into the soil to a depth of 4-6-inches by hand rather than with a tiller. The tiller could damage roots of the tree.

Be sure to select plants that thrive in shaded conditions. Make certain that you pick spots to dig the holes for the plants where you can’t damage the bark of mature tree roots.

Finally, proper maintenance of trees and plants include deep, infrequent watering of about 1-inch per week. One good deep soaking a week is ideal during the first weeks when the plants are establishing their roots. Gradually reduce the watering to once every two weeks to ensure the health of the tree and plants.

About Robert Janis

Written by Robert Janis for LawnEq - Your specialists for Lawn Mower Parts and Small Engine Parts. We offer genuine premium OEM parts for Land Pride, Toro and many more dependable manufacturers.