While the trees above may be quite magnificent often the same cannot be said for the garden below. I recently had time to reflect on this as I sharpened my crowbar and shovel ready for an assault on the densely matted roots of golden cane palms and large trees. These beauties had led to the decline of the garden below. Was it the roots, the shade, the dryness or starvation? Was I embarking on an exhausting act of futility? Well I don’t think so!
All the factors above contribute to the dominance of some plants. One of the ways we can help reduce that dominance is to get extra nutrient directly to the struggling plants below. Anything that goes on the ground will mainly get robbed by the dominant roots, but foliar feeding directly to the leaves of the target plants is guaranteed to get results. Foliage readily absorbs nutrients but it needs to be done more often (fortnightly or monthly) as it is hard to get a lot on leaves before it runs off. I almost always use a spray containing seaweed extract or add extra seaweed because it is full of growth promoting qualities and a broad spectrum of minerals. It is the one thing you can do which directly affects the struggling plants. Even with extra nutrient the plants are often in a much shadier and drier environment than the one they were originally planted in. Some may not suit the existing garden and need replacing.
Planting into an established garden.
I always advise clients to plant smaller plants in a new garden and larger plants in an established garden. A few larger plants can have a big impact on the look of the understory. Anything planted in this environment will need lots of attention to get established. It is easier to look after a few bigger plants than the many smaller plants that would be needed to get the same effect. Dig holes at least 50% bigger than the root ball and back fill with root free soil, add plenty of food when planting. This helps the root ball get established before the tree roots invade. From then on use foliage feeding to help the new plants establish in this difficult environment.