Dear Gardening Life,
I would like to grow mainly hostas under a maple tree that's 10 to 15 years old.
I need pull out grass and was thinking of adding four to six inches of topsoil on top because of roots. My husband said covering up the trunk of tree might kill the tree. Is this true? And what are your suggestions or the proper procedure?
Maple trees have extensive root systems near the surface so they are a challenge to plant under.
Yes, your husband is right – covering up the trunk and the root zone too deeply with soil would definitely be harmful. I suggest you don’t pull out the grass, but cover it with newspaper (eight pages or so thick), wet the newspaper down really well and then put a two to three inch layer of mulch mixed with compost or well-rotted manure over it. Leave it for several months, making sure it stays moist. You’ll find the ground will soften up and you can plant right through the paper. Hostas--I also recommend Epimedium, Pulmonaria and Japanese painted fern--should have time to get established before the maple roots advance. Put in young plants (they will grow bigger down the road), so you’re not having to dig really big holes. Keep the area well mulched and watered and all the plants should be happy.
*Karen York, GL Botanical Editor*
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