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Where are the roots in the compost coming from?

Braintree, MA

I have searched the site but cannot find a problem like mine.

Over the past 4-5 years I have dug out beds in my garden, removed tons of tree roots from trees I guess were previously on the property and each year hauled in lots of compost from 2 town's compost sites and planted shrubs and plants and mulched. The compost looked great, was black and seemed clear of debris.

In each bed I find the same thing each spring, I hesitantly pull back the mulch but immediately can see that web of fine and not so fine roots in my soil, even from the top. As I dig, I have to struggle to pull out chunks of the soil, most of which seems to be roots - these roots do not seem to be attached to a source but some are really strong and would make you think of something coming from a tree somewhere nearby but they are not. It's all over the compost (not in the soil underneath) but especially around the roots of plants, my european ginger and heucheras never seem to grow - these roots seem to suck all the moisture and goodies from the soil. I have tried taking it away but the next year it's the same.

Would appreciate any help to get rid of it.

North Ridgeville, OH(Zone 5b)

Have you had any success in following the roots back to their source?

Braintree, MA

PuddlePirate, thanks for responding.

Most of the roots are short, like a web. When I dig up a good shovelful I shake the earth and all these short roots come free, there are just there, maybe 6-12" long. There are a few that are longer and thicker (thickness of knitting wool), more tree like - one I pulled a few days ago must have ran right along the top of the top (under the mulch) for at least 6-8 ft but then it broke off, I have not traced it any further as my bed is around a patio. To be honest, I'm more concerned about the finer shorter roots. What could it be?

Kansasville, WI(Zone 5a)

Tree roots. I have found roots growing 30 ft from a neighbors tree. Also at one point
I had a pine tree where the roots had grown under the sidewalk and along side
of my house for the water that would run off the roof.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Tree roots and shrub roots can go a surprising distance and are good at finding 'good' soil..

Braintree, MA

I agree the few longer top roots may come from some trees in my neighbor's yards. But the vast majority of my roots are in the top 6-9" of the black compost, but not in the deeper brown earth. I can easily trace their beginnings and ends. It seems to me the smaller roots must come from the compost or the mulch. I'm just wondering if I need to remove the compost and put in amended top soil instead. Also, those roots are not are plentiful when a shrub is in place compared to flowers (which I love).

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Sounds mysterious, but I can't think or anything that makes roots, which won't spring up a green shoot somewhere so you'd know whether you had some grass roots gotten in there, or something??

Kansasville, WI(Zone 5a)

Feeder roots are in the top 6 - 9" of soil. If you remove the compost and put in
amended soil I think the same thing would happen.

Braintree, MA

Feeder roots, that I have not heard of. When I look it up, 'A dense network of slender branching roots that spread close to the surface of the soil and absorb most of the nutrients for a tree or shrub' - maybe but mine are not attached to anything (at least not to my eye) - that's what makes it so weird to me. Should I just leave them, chop them up, remove them, what???

I'm wondering if I need to put in shrubs as opposed to flowers as I notice they don't seem to be as common there.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

How close is the nearest tree? What kind of tree?

Braintree, MA

Sorry I haven't responded, planting and removing roots ++. The nearest tree is about 20 ft away.

However, I do have some updates on my roots. I think it must be the compost. A friend was cleaning up his garden and came across a pile of dirt, when he dug in he found similiar soil (i.e. full of those same short roots I've been writing about), he got compost from one of the same sources as me. He mostly vegetable gardens and rotatills every spring so the roots in his garden, I guess, have been broken up and assimilated into his own soil.

Also, as I dig in various beds I see that the roots are not so dense, in fact almost non-existent in beds where I have removed these roots a few times.

Thanks to all who responded - it's strange how sometimes when you write or say something out loud loudly enough the question gets answered!!

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