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What You Can Grow In A Shady, Root-Filled Garden Bed Might Surprise You!!

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Shady Garden Bed

Shady Garden Bed

“I have tons of maple trees and NOTHING WILL GROW beneath them.”


Without a doubt the number one problem everyday gardeners complain about to me: too much shade and too many roots.

To the left you see a photo of a strip of maple tree garden which is thriving in the full shade of a root filled garden bed.

My secret’s are to – 1) raise the beds up whenever possible with soil amendments like compost and rotted manure, and 2) plant perennials which are as drought tolerant as possible. Surprisingly, I break these rules often and still have fairly strong success if I at least try to incorporate items one and two into the mix as much as I can.

Because tree roots like to suck water for themselves, the perennials are likely to get less water than in a standard planting situation. Plan for that – mixing as many native and drought tolerant varieties in as you can.

For example, above you see Geranium ‘Biokova Karmina’ which is an amazingly drought tolerant variety of geranium mixed with hosta of every type imaginable, mixed variety heuchera, and several woodland natives. Although all of these plants love water, they survive quite well under drought situations.

The exception to the drought tolerant rule in this photo is Bleeding Heart ‘Gold Heart’ (to the left of the photo behind the wicker chair planter), and green beans which you see climbing the fence in full shade with hardly any water (they produced lots of beans too).

Make plans this season to plant that shady garden bed and make a simple and spectacular impact.

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  1. Are you concerned at all about the potential damage to the tree of having a raised bed on top of its roots? Here in the northern high altitude desert, what is considered full sun is often far too harsh in summertime for garden flowers. I grow many things in partial shade.

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