The Q&A Archives: Planting Beneath Oak Trees

Question: I have a small garden with two very large Oak Trees in it. As you can imagine they suck up all the moisture, because of this I have no grass in my back garden just mud. How can I make my garden look nice without chopping those trees down (I have enquired about having them chopped down and it is a lot of money so its out of the question anyway)

Answer: Oaks are especially particular about having their roots disturbed and about having too much water, so your choices should include those plants that get along without regular irrigation. It's important not to plant within 10 feet of the trunks of your oaks, and to keep water to a minimum by using soaker hoses or drip irrigation. Grass really won't grow beneath your oaks, but the shrubs, groundcovers and perennials that will do well under oaks include Manzanita, Barberry, Wild Lilac (Ceanothus), Rock Rose, Pacific Wax Myrtle and Cape Plumbago. Cotoneaster, Wild Strawberry, Rosemary and Evergreen Currant, Aloe, Dusty Miller, Daylily, Oregano, Penstemon, Salvia, Sedum, Thyme and Kniphofia (Red-Hot Poker). Try not to disturb the roots of the oaks when planting, and try to keep the soil as dry as possible by avoiding the use of sprinklers. Following the above guidelines should result in happy oak trees and attractive, healthy landscape plants.

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