Lordy, lordy I got trees on my forty! Don’t most of us? I love my trees and they are beneficial in many ways by saving energy and cleaning the air that we breathe. They can be a focal point in our landscape and give us flowers in the spring and brilliant colors in the fall. They provide habitat and food for birds and other animals. They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. One large tree can supply a day of oxygen for four people. But when it comes to planting shrubs, perennials and annuals near or under a tree, the roots can make it difficult to impossible to accomplish our task. The large woody roots support and anchor our deciduous trees but the nonwoody or hair roots that take up water and nutrients that feed the trees, become the problem. I thought, I was a smart gardener by making berms nearby and planting my ferns and annuals to add color to the area. But those thirty trees and dreaded hair roots love the added fertilizer and water; and, after the first season, grew to the top of the berm harming the plants and destroying the texture of the soil.
But there is an easy solution to adding extra color to those troublesome locations and it has been around for a long time. It is called ‘plant a bag’ and here is how to do it! First, decide how many bags of potting soil you will need for the area. I use organic potting soil which is a lot less money and just add 10-10-10 to each plant. A couple of bags wide is good for a flower bed but don’t cover the entire area under a tree or you’ll risk suffocating it…start at least a couple of feet from the trunk. Once your bags are in place, lift up one edge of the bag and poke a dozen or so holes in the underside. This will keep your plants from staying too wet when it rains or when you water. Then on the top side, cut six or eight evenly spaced ‘Xs’ with a knife and tuck the flaps in to make planting easier. Plant any fast-growing annual like impatiens, caladiums, coleus and you will have wonderful color in no time. I planted many bags with pink and white impatiens when friends of ours had a garden wedding on our property and they were full grown in less than three weeks. Then, all you do is mulch over the bags and no one will ever know your secret. You should be able to get two or three years of planting out of the bags before you dump it into your compost and start over.
So, don’t get discouraged with your trees… just plant your garden in a bag. For the mighty oak may be strong but never ever underestimate the ingenuity and tenacity of a gardener!♦