Last week, I went out, in the beautiful sun, to clear away the weeds and dig my garden box. Usually this is a half hours easy work, and then I can begin to plant my spring garden. However, my experience comes from gardening in an open area. It seems that when you garden anywhere near trees, things are quite a bit different. When I dug my fork into the box I found roots. Not just a few old roots from last year's plants, but lots and lots of roots. It was as if the soil had suddenly developed a venous system.
It seems that trees, and especially cedar trees like ours, can sort of "smell" tasty soil and moisture (or so I am told by Organic Gardening Online). This means that when they find good soil they send lots of extra roots to reap the bounty. Especially rich portions of the box were literally solid with roots. I was really wondering last year why one end of the box did pretty well, while the other struggled to produce. Now I can see that the end nearest the trees is the weakest.
I started digging out the soil (and a billion little roots) last week, and then M helped me to finish over the weekend. I'd asked all sorts of people how to combat the roots, and I did all kinds of online research. The general consensus is that you can never beat them completely (unless you cut down the trees or get a concrete garden box) but you can fight them. Black plastic was suggested as well as weed barrier cloth and even fiberglass or sheet metal panels. However, the winning entry was just simple newspaper. It got the most votes from the experts, and it had the advantage of allowing drainage and promoting worm growth. Most people seemed to believe it was as effective as the other options in the long run. Did you know that the ink is made from soy, so it doesn't pose a health risk?
Ultimately, we'll have to dig up the box every few years if we want to keep gardening in that spot. The trees, it seems, will just keep working to get in to all that nice soil. This is a good workout, but it is, by no means, a huge task. However, I have high hopes that we can hold them off enough to get a few nice veggies to grow. By the way, we checked with the experts, and no trees were really harmed in the digging of this box.