Problem with persistent roots in a raised veg bed

3 Jan 2011
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United Kingdom
Has anyone else experienced this? Would appreciate your views...

Three years ago, I had two 8' x 4' raised veg beds constructed. They are 8" deep, the soil on which they were directly placed was cleared of debris (incl roots from previously removed conifers) to a depth of about 6 - 10" and the beds filled with home made compost which was partially mixed with the soil beneath.

Last spring, and now this spring, there's been masses of pale brown coloured, fine roots invading the beds. I cleared them yesterday and filled two 42 ltr tub-trugs. At first I thought these could be remnants from old conifers but I pretty much cleared them three years ago. I'm sure these roots are alive - could the conifer roots continue to grow without any top growth?

It's clear that these roots are entering the beds at one side where the conifers were planted but also fairly close to our neighbours boundary. The nearest large plant in our neighbours garden is a Yew grown as a shrub and kept about 8 - 10' tall/wide but that's at least 15' away.

Are Yews known for their spreading root systems? Or could it be something else? It's not honey fungus as, unfortunately, I'm familiar with their bootlace type underground 'threads'.

PS The worst affected bed is now lined with plant proof fabric. May have to do same for nearby second bed.
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Ah, the roots have gone to the tip so no photos - sorry. And we've now planted up the beds so I can't rummage around to find more.

Best way I can describe them is to say they're all consistently pale brown in colour, very fine (1mm typically) with a few maybe 4 or 5 mm max. main roots. They're mostly a matted mess and always deeper than about 10 cm from the raised bed surface. No signs of shoots or other variations.

Incidentally, a compost heap I have about 1.5m away from the veg bed (but closer to the neighbours yew shrub) also suffers an identical root invasion problem and I lined that with plant proof fabric a year ago.

As a general rule, is it possible for plant roots to continue vigorous growth when there isn't any top growth whatsoever?

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