a garden that doesn’t thrive

(Question)

I have a front yard groundcover and hosta garden that I work at attentively. It is in North Riverdale in Toronto and the garden faces east. Sadly, this garden has not thrived in years despite attention, composting, watering, and the replacement of the earth three years ago. Neighbouring gardens have much thicker ground covers and hosta. Even the finca barely spread and the 10 year old forsythia looks sickly. There is a city planted linden tree (doesn’t grow as fast as others in the neighbourhood) and a cedar that I transplanted years ago from a field. At that time it was three feet high and now it is about 14 feet high and the bottom has a diameter of seven feet. Could this cedar be the culprit? I am wondering if I should take down the cedar. If so, how would I go about destroying the roots, or at least making them inactive.

I should also tell you that my backyard garden is beautiful and thriving. Several clematis love it, even though I have a too big weeping cypress there!

I truly appreciate your taking the time to respond.

(Answer)

Some varieties of cedars put down a deep tap root however, most expand horizontially. The root system of a cedar won’t extend much deeper than originally planted. The exact variety of the cedar family, growing conditions and competition all affect how wide the root system will spread.

Ammending the soil with organic matter every year is an excellent way of improving the soil condition. The fact that the perennials are still not thriving could be due to watering. Shallow watering will force roots to the surface in search of water resulting in plants under stress.  The shallow roots of the perennials will compete with the shallow root system of the cedar tree . Watering plants thoroughly and infrequently will force their roots deep below the surface. The addition of mulch over the beds will also help retain the moisture in the soil.

As for the proper way of removing the cedar and destroying the stump, I would contact a certified arborist in your area.