I'm not sure if this thread should go here or under landscaping, but I'll start here. I've decided the shade under a red oak in my yard is too dense for turfgrass. The competition for water doesn't help the grass' situation either. If I'm going to create a bed under this tree, which I'm thinking about making about the size of the drip line, will the mulch & new plantings stress the tree?
I've been wondering a bit about this too. My gut tells me it is a bad idea with Howard talking about the tree flare needing to be exposed. I see landscapers do this so often though. Is it possible that landscapers just don't know about this and cover up the root flare anyway? I suppose I wouldn't be surprised if this was the case.
Is there a way to create a bed under a tree that doesn't cause the tree stress, I wonder? Maybe I'll call Howard's program if this doesn't get answered.
I've heard from Howard and read many times that IF you have to put a bed under a tree you should never put more than a couple of inches of organic matter under the tree and plant only things that do not require much water. I wouldn't even do that much. From my understanding, most of the roots that the tree uses to take in oxygen is just below the soil and adding soil on top will eventually sufficate the tree....a very slow death. Plus, you will be forced to water a mature tree far more than it needs. Remember that except for extreme drought conditions, a mature tree rarely needs additional watering other than what it gets from nature.
The combination of the water and less oxygen is not a good thing for your tree.
Joined: Sat Jan 08, 2005 6:55 pm Posts: 286 Location: Saginaw,TX
It may depend on the size of the tree. Sounds like your oak is fairly big. Shumard oak is a "forest tree", therefore it grows in crowded conditions.In the forest there are understory trees and shrubs under shumards, though I don't know what or which ones. Maybe you could try that. Redbuds, I think, is good for that. Japanese maples? Maybe Texas sage, but I think it may need full sun.
Putting piles of compost and mulch is not a bright idea. Just a thin, thin layer for the red oak if it is just for the look. If you want to plant under story shrubs or trees, it maybe better to plant them when the are small, or away the drip line.
You'd be best to lay down a landscape fabric to control weed growth, then add a layer of shredded mulch. If you decide to plant anything under the trees, choose something native that won't require a lot of additional water. The increased water is going to do more damage to the tree than the layer of mulch. Make sure you keep any dirt buildup off the root flare. Mulch is OK, but it's best to leave the flare exposed.
Plants to consider would be liriope, mondo grass, asian jasmine or wintercreeper. They have shallow roots. Remember they will still compete with the tree roots for water, and may not grow into lush specimens, looking stunted or sparse.
Hostas, ferns, impatiens and caladiums require too much water to be healthy to the tree.
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