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Raised bed around a tree

We have recently moved to a property with this huge beech tree on the drive. We have recently had the tarmac redone and were advised to put in sleepers around the tree . I am a little confused as to what to do next . I was going to do a raised bed with some nice plants but I see there are different views on this due to the tree roots . The tree is huge so assumed as it was so established and already on a tarmac drive that putting soil in around it would not harm it? Is it better just to level out with some mulch and pop some nice pots in there? Any advice gratefully received 
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  • PalustrisPalustris Posts: 3,669
    Putting soil around the base of a tree can cause problems with rot for the tree. I would say that putting pots of plants rather than soil would be safer.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 39,390
    While I'd have to agree with @Palustris, I've actually done this with a tree and it's been fine.
    If it's done very gradually over a long period of time, with a suitable medium, the tree can adjust. However, you may not want to do it, because it's quite risky.  
    You could always sneak a few spring bulbs in there and/or some low growing ground cover instead, which would help disguise the 'gap'. If done sensitively, that would provide a good alternative.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 26,235
    edited February 2020
    Sorry Liam but no free advertising allowed.

    I would follow @Fairygirl's advice and gradually build up the levels of soil or compost around those roots over a few seasons.  It will require patience so use pots to disguise them for now and make sure they get enough water for the roots too without drowning them.   You could also place pots in front of those sleepers with plants that would reduce their starkness without impacting the tree roots.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Liz.S.Liz.S. My gardenPosts: 55
    Adding gravel would cause the same problems as adding soil and vinegar is for chips not weed  killing.
    "Life returns. Life prevails. Resistance is futile" Rusty the dalek
  • Looking at the trunk of the tree it looks rather like a silver birch to me. They are not very long lived trees compared to a beech or oak. I agree with the above, use potted plants, you can ring the changes each year and it will not upset the tree. I think the tarmac, so close to the base of the tree may cause it problems with lack of moisture in long hot spells of weather in the summer. It is impossible to keep a full grown tree alive with hand watering as they need so much water to stay alive, a tree of that size will probably keep going for a few years and then slowly die off. Sorry tosound so depressing but I lost 3 silver birch due to hot weather some years ago, so frustrating.
  • Looks like a Beech to me.

    I'd have to agree with pots or maybe hessian sacks.
  • This forum is so helpful . Thank you all for taking time to reply . I think pots are the way forward especially as I am a novice gardener ! 
  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 6,529
    It is impossible to keep a full grown tree alive with hand watering as they need so much water to stay alive, a tree of that size will probably keep going for a few years and then slowly die off. Sorry tosound so depressing but I lost 3 silver birch due to hot weather some years ago, so frustrating.
    If it's close to the house you could fit a downpipe with a waterbutt and link that to a trickle watering system directed to the base of the tree. Beeches have very wide and shallow root systems though (out beyond the crown of the tree normally) so what effect pouring the red hot tarmac over the top did I don't know. Soil is a pretty good insulator but it depends on what ground prep was done first. I did some work on a house with a TPOed beech recently and we were adviced by the arboriculturalist to build up the driveway on top of the existing ground and only surface it with loose gravel. They could strip any turf but not disturb the soil below. That was on existing garden though so if this was already driveway then the roots might have been deeper anyway.

    Unlike the brain, the stomach warns you when it's empty.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 71,927
    A tip ... when potting up your chosen plants, use a loam-based John Innes compost. JI no 2 or 3 will be suitable. 
    Not one of the lightweight Multi-purpose type general composts. They dry out too quickly and your plants will struggle if they’re going to be there long term. 
    Also the loam-based compost is physically heavier and the pots won’t blow around as easily. 
    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







  • csbogedcsboged Posts: 1
    You could do what Dovefromabove suggested which I feel is a better idea than mine. Mine would be to recreate the bed around the tree to provide an inside wall close to but not touching the tree along with a bottom (ensure to allow for drainage), offering the same look. This would be a lot more work and that is why going with John Innes compost would be better suited for your current situation. I am going to draft mine from scratch so I don't have to re-create like you would have to. Plus wood is still expensive in my area. 
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