Keep Shallow-Rooted Trees Away From Gardens

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20150219AIf you’re searching for trees to plant on your property, one factor to consider is the type of roots it produces, and this is especially true if you’re an avid gardener.

You see, some trees have roots that grow especially deep or are well-spaced. These trees won’t hamper your gardening plans, even in the long term (unless the soil where you plan to garden is very thin; after all, even a normally deep-rooted tree will produce surface roots if there is, for example, a layer of solid rock just below the soil surface).

20150219BOther trees, on the contrary, have either dense root systems or mostly superficial roots that will quickly create havoc, drying out the soil and depleting its minerals, making any type of gardening difficult. And many of these same trees will cause further damage by lifting the tiles of your terrace, cracking and raising the sidewalk, rendering the surface of your walkways and trails uneven, and sometimes even damaging your home’s foundation. It is even difficult to maintain a decent lawn under these trees! Certainly the trees below can be useful in a city park, a woodlot or on a large lot, but they are not good choices if you think you’ll be gardening one day.

Note that the situation is even worse near a vegetable garden. Vegetables are delicate things, requiring deep, loose, rich soil. You don’t want tree roots of any sort wandering in. Ideally, therefore, you could avoid any tree, even one said to have deep roots, near a vegetable garden. Don’t even plant large large shrubs nearby. Or, looking from another point of view, one of the basic criteria in the selection of the site for any future vegetable bed should always be the absence of any tree or large shrub in the area.

The culprits

Here are some trees with superficial or very dense roots that you should avoid planting if you want a beautiful lawn, a stunning flower bed or a productive vegetable garden.

Alder (Alnus spp.)
Amur maple (Acer tataricum ginnala)
Arborvitae (Thuja spp.)
Ash (Fraxinus spp.)
Beech (Fagus spp.)
Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
Elm (Ulmus spp.)
European white birch (Betula pendula)
Fir (Abies spp.)
Hemlock (Tsuga spp.)
Larch (Larix spp.)
Liquidambar (Liquidambar spp.)
Magnolia (Magnolia spp.)
Norway maple (Acer platanoïdes)
Pin oak (Quercus palustris)
Poplar (Populus spp.)
Red maple (Acer rubrum)
River birch (Betula nigra)
Silver maple (Acer saccharinum)
Spruce (Picea spp.)
Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
Tulip tree (Liriodendron spp.)
White pine (Pinus strobus)
Willow* (Salix spp.)
Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis)

*Shrub willows have more limited root systems than tree willows and can be used near a flower bed… but never near vegetables!

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