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Will a raised bed over tree stumps work?

Hi there everyone,

I’m new here and new to gardening! Plenty of ideas about what I like (from watching TV) but no idea if any of it is possible!

I live in a 1950s house which had huge cedars and conifers at the back - presumably planted when the house was built - I had them removed by a tree surgeon just before lockdown. 

Unfortunately I’m now left with tree stumps out the back and quite a far reaching root system which can be felt under the lawn in front. Removing them with a digger not an option at the moment due to access / cost etc. 

I wanted to ask some experienced gardeners if this plan would work to make the area look good:

I want to build a 4ft wall at the back of the garden, in a big rectangle, all around the stumps. After adding drainage, the idea would be to fill the whole thing with soil. Hopefully, this will have the dual effect of concealing the various tree stumps and providing a raised bedding area. 

My hope is to plant a range hardy perennials, climbing plants up a new fence, and maybe transplant azalea from other spots in the garden to here.

My question really is whether you see any problems with this plan? 

Would the tree stump and root system below cause issues with any planting? 

Will anything ever grow in that area, even if good soil is filled in around and on top of the stumps? 

Is there anything else I should consider?

For info, it is a spot in full sun. 

I’ve enclosed a picture of the site now, minus trees, partially covered with chippings from the trees and the embarrassingly shoddy fence now revealed!

Any and all help or suggestions gratefully received! 

Many many thanks for reading.



  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,556
    I think you will be fine if you can get eight inches or so of soil on top most areas.  Rake out the wood chips first, and use them as a mulch on top the soil after planting.  
    Utah, USA.
  • gdizgdiz Posts: 5
    Ah Thank you Blue Onion for the response! That is good to hear, I had everything crossed that I wouldn’t be left with the current eyesore! 

    Would you know if, given there were maple and conifers there before, the ground would need any sort of prep before new soil added? (On top of your suggestion to rake out the wood chippings)

    And is there a sort of ‘neutral’ soil that would give me good conditions for most types of plants? 

    Appreciate your help!! 
  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,556
    I would just put down a thick layer of well rotted manure, then top with soil from elsewhere in your garden, if you have it.  Or a mix of your own soil and some quality bagged compost from the GC.  At time of planting, mix in some blood, bone, and fishmeal.. and if the plant is larger and goes into the manure.. just dig the hole a bit wider and backfill with a bit of compost.  Mulch with more manure, if you have it.  
    Utah, USA.
  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,556
    Not sure about azaleas.. they may not like that soil depth over slowly rotting wood, manure, or soil.  Hopefully someone can answer about them specifically.  
    Utah, USA.
  • gdizgdiz Posts: 5
    Thanks so much Blue Onion! Lots to read up on! Thanks so much for the tips 
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Bath, SomersetPosts: 6,578
    I wouldn't have thought you need a 4ft wall, looking at your photo (unless the perspective's deceptive), you could probably get away with 2ft as most perennials don't need a big depth of soil. The only other problem is that you cannot bank the soil up against the new fence or it will rot, so take your new level from the base of the fence across to where you want the bed to be. It is possible, though hard work, to use a hand axe to chop the stumps into pieces and lever them out.

  • gdizgdiz Posts: 5
    Thanks Lizzie, I think the perspective in the photo is a bit off. I was thinking 4 foot right around the proposed bed area (there are a range of heights of the stumps) and fence on top of wall.

    Perhaps you are right - I might be able to get away with a shorter wall. 

    with regards to getting rid of the stumps, the tree surgeon cut them down as far as he could. He said he would need a mini digger to pull out the roots but wouldn’t be keen to because of access and because of the damage he might cause behind the fence pulling the roots out (graveyard behind fence)

    id like to try to conceal them first, if poss 😁
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 10,089
    Yes, a raised bed will work (12" sides would be high enough) and conifer stumps will rot down relatively quickly compared to hardwood tree stumps so can be pretty much ignored.  Azaleas growing around your garden suggests you have acid soil, so you will need to either use some of that or add some ericaceous compost if you buy in topsoil (which is usually neutral pH) to fill the bed and want to move the azaleas into it.  Personally, I'd leave those where they are and use bought-in topsoil mixed with well-rotted manure to fill it, which will allow you to grow a much greater range of plants, trees and shrubs.

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • gdizgdiz Posts: 5
    Thank you Bob! I might leave the azaleas where they are then, to have a greater choice in the beds.

    this garden was well planted and maintained by the previous owner, who lived here for 50 years - many beautiful roses, different varieties, colours, fabulous perfume all grow along the side of my house. When I build up some gardening skill I’ll like to move those into the new bed, because having gorgeous flowers at the side of the house where the car is parked and no one can enjoy them is such a waste! 

    I will follow the advice re well rotted manure & a more neutral soil to accommodate!

    many thanks 
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