Last week I bit the bullet and had 15 large trees removed from my suburban backyard. If was an out-of-hand forest. There had been a very large elm (70 feet) growing in this raised bed when I bought the house (you can see it was right on the house-- less than 4 feet from the foundation.) They removed the tree, chipped out 18 inches of stump below the soil level and treated it so I won't have new growth.
I want to plant this area in the spring, preferably with perennials. It now gets fairly constant sun and the area measures approximately 7.5 feet by an average of about 5 feet. You can see the color of the house in the photo (light yellow and apricot trim). It is a cottage-style house with some bricks in the facade and I have curved and brick-lined herbaceous borders in the front and side, as well as a few brick-lined rounded beds and an herb garden set out in a partitioned square. This bed is on the east side of the house.
Can you tell me what I am going to have to do to the soil to get it ready to plant? When the big tree was there, nothing grew because it sucked the life our of everything else I tried. I imagine I will have to fertilize (with what?) and maybe add some top soil? And do I have to worry about whatever they treated the stump with killing whatever I put in there? Should I do anything to it before snow flies? It is already freezing here at night. You can see they left the wood chips mixed into the soil.
And what should I put in there? We are zone 3b/4a-- some zone 4 plants are touchy here. I would like something layered perhaps, but I am completely open to suggestions. Even as to the color scheme. I expect now it will get a fair bit of sun, with late afternoon shade from the house.
I will check out these links. You are so very helpful!
Yes, they tell me it is a miracle I didn't have foundation problems. I do not know what they put on the stump-- the receipt (the very expensive receipt!) says they treated the "cambriarum" (as best I can make out.)
The cambrium (sp?) layer is the layer that is located between the outter bark and the ineer tissue. This layer carries nutrients, water, etc for the tree. Putting poison here will help it spread through the rest of the tree.
You just gave me an idea! We have a forest in our backyard and the HOA won't let us cut down trees. Kill em!!!!!!! I'm going to get my husband to drill holes around the bottom of the trunk and fill the holes with round up. Guess I could use I could girdle them too. They're Chinese poplars and huge and invading my raised beds. OOOOOO I can't wait until Sun!
I have trees in my backyard also, and I have actually changed what I grow back there so I can deal with the shade and the tree roots. I sure can't grow the sunlovers back there, but I can grow all kinds of leafy greens, berries, and shade-loving herbs & perennials. It has really expanded my gardening knowledge to deal with the challenge of these trees. None are growing four feet from the house, though!
rubia16 ~ if you want to amend the soil in your box, i would add "leaf grow" it comes in 1.5 cubic foot bags and is cheaper than most soils. essentially it is composted leaves. it is very high in nutrients and is pitch black. keep the soil you have, wood chips and all and simply mix this into the top four inches of soil. it will revive your existing soil and save you a fortune on replacing it.
yehudith ~ JCalhoun's info on them trees vascular system is correct. however, your idea of drilling holes wont work. as long as the cambium is connected in some places it will eventually fill back in. look up "bridge grafting" to see why. you'r idea is along the right track though. if you remove a solid ring around the base of a tree it will survive approximately one summer then go into a looooooong hibernation. if the trees are protected THIS IS VANDALISM, try and do it bellow the soil to make it less obvious. oh and the ring should be about an inch wide to ensure no new growth of the cambium fills the gap and revives your tree.
They're my trees in my yard! The HOA has this thing about trees. After I cut down the one in the front that nearly fell on my daughter they fined me $500 because I didn't ask their permission and when I did they didn't feel the tree was dangerous. Now I have to be sneaky about it. I just had 2 guys climb up and limb the suckers up to the last 2 branches. That took off atleast 75% of the tree. They look ridiculous. These 50 ft long sticks with a couple broken sticks at the top. That should have killed them. But I want to make sure!
pull the top 3" of soil away from the trunks and shave off the top layer of bark, then put the soil back. it will stop the tree from gaining its nutrients and once it uses its supply it starves. it will also allow bacteria and bugs into the trees vascular system. no tree would survive that.
also when the tree dies you can claim you don't know what happened, you simply trimmed the branches to allow light into your yard and the trees died. the evidence of the trees death will be under ground.
If you have 100 times more patience than i do, you might want to spend one season or one year planting cover crops like buckwheat followed by fall Rye, or sopme kind of peas, clover or vetch.
The roots and stems would be sure to improve the soil, and give you some expeirence with the spot before you set perennials in place.
Or you might enjoy a few years of trying different annuals before you "lock it down" with perennials. They're easy and cheap to start from seed, and you can experiment with several different things each year. DG'ers will shower you with seeds if you ask on the right forum.
Even seeing how annuals look there, for a year or two, might give you more ideas about ways to lay out perennials which might be harder to start from seed, or expen$ive to buy as plants. Re-seeding annuals can be as low-maintenance as perennials!
I am also thinking that it's easier to find showy annuals that are bright-colored all season, for any given zone.
You're in 3a/4B? If I were you, I wouldn't buy a dozen or even three of any one perennial species until I had 1-2 survive at least 3 winters. But I'm cheap! And I've discovered a few "gotcha's" like slugs, the occasional atypical last freeze, excessive fall rain, cats and squirrels that like to dig ... you might wnat to populate your bed gardually, learning as you go.
Good idea corey! if you didnt want to bother with cover crops you could also plant wild flowers. they wouldn't fix the nitrogen but they would look good for a season, give you a layer of dead stuff next year (to turn into the soil) and you would be able to spend the next year getting a feel for the "new" light your experiencing. its a cheap, good short term solution that keeps you from commitment before you know how your new environment will work. also it would bring in birds and bees.
I am going to get some annuals to start-- I like the idea and it is a small investment. Normally we don't start gardens here until after memorial day-- the garden shops are just getting set up now :-) We had a little snow just last weekend, so late "frosts" (full blown snow) are common.
I did put a few experimental bulbs in there last fall and they came up are look to be doing okay-- mostly tulips. The area gets pretty good sun so far.
So the nutrient that is missing is going to be nitrogen? That is good to know. Also I will look into the leaf mulch and see if I can get it somewhere local. Are there other ways to add nitrogen?
I can;'t wait to be able to look out that window and see flowers, rather than a giant old tree trunk!
Grass clippings on top as a mulch, gradually decomposing, or turned under the soil. .
Compost (added as a mulch on top or turned into soil before planting) adds a little nitrogen and helps the soil hold onto whatever you add. Really, any kind of organic compost helps almost any new soil a huge amount, and is probably more important than fertilzer, if the soil structure is poor to beging with.
Lately I've seen huge prices for small bags of very fancy fertilizer. Instead, I would buy a big bag of cheap lawn fertiler where the first number is high, and put the saved money towards many bags of compost, or a cubic yard of compost delivered.
>> the area measures approximately 7.5 feet by an average of about 5 feet.
I'm sure that the results of a soil test are always good to know, and might surprise you, but I heard that they can cost $50 just for a basic analysis. If I was going to pay $50, I hope it would tell me something about an acre or more, not just 13 square yards. Maybe spend the money on a cubic yard of compost or topsoil instead.
Unless you've already been amending and fertilizing under those trees, it probably needs some of everything, or a lot of everything, but don't use a heavy hand adding too much fertilizer in any one year. You can afford to build up fertility gradually. Over-fertilizing is much worse than under-fertilizing. But there is probably no such thing as too much compost!
By the time you have good soil structure (organic content, drainage, aeration and tilth), which might take a few years, even a little balanced fertilizer each year will probably have corrected any major deficiencies.
One way to do a soil analysis is to apply uniformly a little of every nutrient everywhere, just so you have at least SOME of everything vital. For example, sprinkle or bury some 10-5-5 fertilzer plus spray some soluble MircacleGrow around.
Then break the area into quarters in your mind or with string. Apply more nitrogen to one quarter, more phosphorus to another quarter, and more potassium to a third quarter. The fourth quarter is either a control area, or add some source of micronutrients like rock dust, Azomite or a spray. Maybe Epsom Salts (MgSO4), or iron.
I would overlap the areas 20%, so parts of the bed would get extra
N + P,
or N + K or
P + K, or
If some quarters look more lush that season, the plants need more of that nutrient, so spread more of that into the other 3 quarters and proably add some more every year for a few years.
If all three quarters look a little better than the control, and the overlap areas look better than any one quarter, then you do still need more of everything.
In most parts of the country, most soil and rain is acid, so spreading a little dolomite lime everywhere every 2-3 years is likely to be helpfull. To prove it to yourself (or disprove it) use the spreader to put down lime in big stripes that cross all four quarters, and check that things are greener where more lime was laid down.
I know that many say you don't need to fertilize, just add 6" of compost every year for several years, or forever. That certainly will produce good soil!
But if you don't have unlimited compost, and you're starting with not-very-fertile soil, chemical fertilizers are likely to give you more green for the first 2-5 years.
You must be a chemist (or have a lot of chemistry in your background.)
I appreciate it and I will try the quarters thing in this bed-- I like experiments. Then I will generalize the results in treatment to all the areas where trees came out.
There is also a strench of 50 feet or so along the alley side (and about 15 feet wide) where they took out 12 big elms/stumps (and a little awful buckthorn) that is also going to need some extra help. It was all badly overgrown. I had cleaned it up a bit and put hostas, oriental lilies and columbines under there that may or may not come back this year (a lot of chip-mulch got spread over them-- as much as 8-10 inches in some places when I rebanked it). Plus they probably ground some of them up with the machine trying to get the surface roots. I am kind of waiting to see what re-appears. Plus now it is full sun, where before it was quite shady. If those hostas come back I will be moving them for sure. On the side of the steep slope facing the alley (about 5 feet with a steep grade) I planted agressive ditch lilies, ox-eye daisies, sundrops (some folks call them primrose) and periwinkle to stem erosion. I also mixed a little clay into the slope soil, hoping that would help it "stick". I do have a source of free clay from by the river. But the mulchy soil in that alley strip is really loose and you sink it in a bit when you step so I guess it will settle some. I was planning to leaf mulch the rest of it (the non-sloped part is about 10 feet wide), based on the first suggestion there.
In addition, they took out a fir tree that had grown up under a giant centurian elm I kept (I still have lots of big trees left-- it was a crazy forest lot here and I have been hacking out buckthorn and saplings every year since I bought it.) The soil under there is very acidic (there was no grass at all under there) so I also appreciate the tip about lime. I removed a lot of duff (four plus wheelbarrows-full,) added wood-chip mulch from the strip of elms and from a big maple they took out and seeded some grass there. The grass is coming up in spotty streaks-- maybe there is some way to correct the ph without hurting the new grass?
There is certainly more to this than I suspected-- and it has already been a lot of work just to clean up/move mounds of chip mulch. I really do appreciate all the suggestions and advice. Hopefully this will be the last time I have to do anything as ambitious as this again :-)
Soil tests are not expensive. I had one made this year and cost $7 plus $5 to mail it to Auburn. It told me the pH, and what nutrients were high and low. I told what I had and what I was considering for the future and the told exactly what to add and when to add it. My soil is a very acidic 5.4 which is why most of the ornamental trees and shrubs don't grow well in my neighborhood.
No grass doesn't necessarily mean that the soil is acidic. Could be a higher or neutral pH. Grass also needs lots of sunlight and certain nutrients. It's hard to grow grass in shade. If you have already added lime to a soil that has a neutral to high pH then the lime will make the soil more basic and some grasses will not tolerate it.
Wow, Rubia, I didn't realize how big the area was. I thoguht the slope part was all there was. Cool that you have to add clay to it, to stabilize it! But it sounds like millions opf roots will anchor it.
I hope you can get a reasonably-priced soil test! I haven't hunted for one, but read one author who said that was what he had to pay. Someone else wrote that some department at UMass might do an analysis for anyone, anywhere, more reasonably.
>> If you have already added lime to a soil that has a neutral to high pH then the lime will make the soil more basic and some grasses will not tolerate it.
I think there is some pH above which lime won't raise the pH, since that is its buffer point. I don't know how basic that is, because our soil was always more or less acid, never basic and heavy clay (meaning slow to chnage pH).
We always spread several bags of dolomite lime every few years on the lawn and most beds ... just not where there were acid-loving shrubs.
Invariably, where we missed with lime, grass was paler and less vigorous, and where we double-dosed, it grew better.
I'm sure there is a point of excess lime for any soil and rainfall, or at least diminishing returns and vanishing returns. I agree that you live somewhere that has basic soil and rain that isn't acid, you probably DON'T need any lime.
I didn't know the was such a thing as acid-loving grass - we should have planted that!