Why Understanding Plant Roots is Important in a Garden

As gardeners, we ignore the rhizosphere at our peril. New gardeners naturally tend to focus on what plants look like above ground when planning their gardens. But plant roots and what goes on below the soil is also very important.

It might sound very obvious, but we should not forget that most plants take in nutrients and water from the soil through their roots. This means, as I have written many times before – the soil and its composition in our gardens is of paramount importance. Healthy plant growth (and healthy people) depend on the complex mechanisms which take place within the precious ecosystem below.

Understanding the importance of soil, what it really is and how plants interact with it is crucial for any sustainable, organic gardener.

Beyond this, gardeners planning their gardens and deciding which plants to place where also need to begin to think about different rooting forms and patterns. When choosing which plants to place where in a particular scheme, it is often important to consider their root systems.

Careful companion planting and the creation of polycultures involves thinking about the depth and characteristics of plant roots. Only by thinking about roots can we work out which plants may be overly competitive with one another, and which can co-exist very happily.

One example of this is when we choose plants with deep tap roots to place around a (much more shallow rooted) fruit tree. But there are many other scenarios when a consideration of plant roots helps us come up with the best combinations.

So if you are new to gardening, look beyond the surface and delve a little deeper. There is a lot to learn, but understanding the importance of roots is a good first step.

If you have a new garden area to plan, and are feeling a little confused, I can help by creating a design which takes a range of different elements of plant interaction (including their root form and growth) into account. So please do get in touch to let me know how I might be able to help.

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