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Thread: what to do in the shade?

  1. #1

    Unhappy what to do in the shade?

    Hey I have an area under lots of trees with complete shade..of course planting and digging is next to impossible because of roots..? I thought about just some containers maybe elevated or small raised beds..anyone here have ideas or maybe have the same problem? thanx

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2004
    SE PA, zone 6b


    The roots of a tree grow outward past the drip-line. A good many of the roots are fairly near the surface. If you improve the soil in one area (to plant into), like any other plant, the tree will go for the goodies. Therefore, there will be lots of fibrous roots filling the area. More than 4-5" of compost, top soil, planting mix, etc. over a large part of the root zone will "smother" the roots and do harm to the tree, possibly fatal. Be careful how much you cover.

    Having said this, there are plenty of lovely plants that will grow in the shade. You can find lists and landsccape plans in books, magazines, and the web. I would dig a fairly deep hole and wide to sever the roots, while the plant is getting established. For ease of working and for the health of the tree, I would avoid trying to plant too close to the trunk.

    Our veggie-perennial garden is a good distance from the drip line of any trees. We regularly pull roots out of one corner. They love the goodies. We have one huge spreading maple that grows in a drooping fashion wherein the branches nearly touch the ground. Nothing grows in there, but it is a wonderful area to work under. I have a potting set-up there as well as piles of chips, leaf mulch, sand, etc. We have the compost bins there. There is an 8x15' shed, and soon there will also be a shelter for the garden tools.
    Nearer the house, on the south side are three more maples of a different kind (more upright, and trimmed high). Under these next to the concrete foundation of the house, I have laid weed barrier, put board boxes (bottomless) and store the plants I have potted in anticipation of next years sale. Mist beds and the greenhouse adjoin them. The gh is in the sun. When this is all completed, I will send pix.

    Your idea of using pots is a good one for under the trees. Keeps down the root competition. Try to find back issues of the magazine, Fine Gardening, for some wonderful gardens that do well in a shady situations. It can be done and beautiful; you just need to keep the above thoughts in mind.

    Good luck. I'm sure many others will have some good ideas to offer. It can be a beautiful spot!
    SE PA, zone 6b

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