When we first built our raised beds over top of the roots of our neighbors’ maple tree where the previous owner grew a crop of weeds for years, I did my due diligence and learned the best way to keep the tree’s feeder roots from getting into the fluffy moist veggie garden soil we planned to put on top of them and wanted very much to keep them out of was to put down a layer of landscaping fabric under the beds before placing the soil on top. Optimistic, that is what we did.
Fast forward two years and our beds were so full of feeder roots, last summer the beets were crowded out and growing on top of the dirt! After more research where I learned a) it was best to give up and, b) if you didn’t want to give up then bullet proof it so we decided to tackle the remediation head on.
First we removed all of the soil from the raised bed, placing it on top of a tarp. It’s good organic stuff and we didn’t want it to mix with the potentially contaminated soil from our Gowanus Canal neighborhood.
The next step was to lay down a layer of landscaping fabric, cutting it slightly larger than the bed frame. We lifted the frames gently and slipped it under the edges.
After the fabric we put down a layer of 1/4″ hardware cloth under the edges, also cut slightly larger than the frame. Hardware cloth is a fine mesh of metal you can buy by the yard or the roll at most hardware stores. When calculating the amount you’ll need be sure to allow for overlap. It will most likely take two lengths x the width of your box. Each section of our bed is 4′x5′ so two, 16 foot rolls was enough to do one. All together we put down three layers of landscaping cloth (A) and two of hardware cloth (B), so the sequence is A-B-A-B-A. The maple roots may grow back, but hopefully they’ll get lost for a few years inside the layers and not venture past.
Finally, after a long afternoon of digging and sifting we planted the rhubarb back. We’re so excited the raspberry canes are leafing out everywhere and little strawberry shoots are popping up in the bed next to it. It’s their third season and we’re optimistic it will be a great berry crop! We also learned last year when NOT to plan our vacation (during the first week of July) or we’ll miss peak berry season in Brooklyn, NY.
In the last photo you can see the next bed we have to do – half of it is a double height bed where the tomatoes grow and it’s completely filled with feeder roots. If you are planting over a maple tree, all I can say is good luck and bring on the hardware cloth!
Supplies You’ll Need
- Lanscaping Fabric, enough for three layers
- Hardware cloth, enough for two layers
- Scissors to cut the landscaping fabric
- Tin Snips to cut the hardware cloth