I have a garden that had an ash tree on one end, about 15 foot away..What...

Asked August 21, 2013, 9:06 PM EDT

I have a garden that had an ash tree on one end, about 15 foot away..What ever I plant does well for a short period, and then becomes stunted..I am sure it is caused by tree roots using up the nutrients and water..In your best judgement, if I dig this out about 16'' deep, line it with plastic, not cutting the corners but folding them(seamless)and filling it back in to keep roots out..I know I will have to put a drain of sorts on 1 end so I don't drown the plants..Will this work and for how long. 2 years, 5 8,Thank you..

Macon County Illinois

1 Response

You say you "had" an ash tree. Is the tree no longer there? If it's gone, then there's nothing to steal nutrients from your garden, although there may be some physical competition for space if there's a lot of tree roots still under the garden. In that situation, it might be better to excavate and remove the roots.

If the ash tree is still alive, it's more likely that it is shading the garden. While we do recommend keeping gardens away from trees, the biggest problem is usually shade. Fertilizing the garden and irrigating it will overcome any stealing being done by a live tree.

I'd suggest looking for some more mundane causes of your problems. First, get a soil test done, to check soil pH and nutrient levels. Next, examine the garden site for amount of sunlight (it should get at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day). Review your fertilizing and watering chores from the past year, and be sure you are doing them correctly and adequately.

Finally: if for some reason you decide to build some sort of protection, I think it would be much easier (and better for the plants) to create a raised garden bed, than to excavate downward. If you want to prevent roots from invading the raised bed, lay a layer of landscape fabric (not solid plastic) under the raised bed. This will prevent roots, but allow water to drain out.