This year I'm changed my mentality from trying to fight back tree roots in my garden to using them as a soil amendment.
For the last 4 years its been a losing battle, they grow right back in a thick mat after I've redug my beds.
I'd redig the beds partly just to cut the roots.
Now though I changing everything to hugelkultur and thus a no-till approach so instead of cutting the roots right in the bed I
am digging a trench between the trees and bed to cut the roots.
Thus the roots will be untouched in the beds but dead and decompose.
The trenches are refilled and I'll put a drip line in to lead the roots back to the garden. Thus next year I'll know where the roots are to cut.
Hopefully this will work and every year a large mat of roots will be added to the soil as an amendment.
I was researching this very thing today and found this link for CA native N-fixing plants and trees. Decomposing N-fixing roots are awesome; I planted avocados in a spot where I chopped down a Palo Verde and they're doing fantastic.
Different kinds of trees have different things that go on with roots. I have an ornamental cherry that brings moisture up and seems happy to share with strawberries. I have a culinary bay that sucks every drop down and is almost always dry in the root zone. First peoples harvested exposed cottonwood roots by rivers and used them for all sorts of things, baskets as an example. I am interested in what kind of tree you are harvesting roots from?
If I had the space it might be great to plant some Alders on the north side of a garden and then pollard them every year. Get the mulch and root die back benefits.
But I am stuck with large redwood trees next to my garden. The neighbors wouldn't like it if I pollarded their redwood grove.
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
posted 6 years ago
Something called alley-cropping is common in tropical systems, with rows planted on contour between annual beds. Like said above, coppicing is used to stimulate the flux of nutrients from root die back, and the tops are used as mulch. My red alder dies when cut, but willow, black cottonwood, and goumi all seem to coppice well, although some plants will sucker (send up shoots from roots) like some cottonwood species and black locust.
Paul Cereghino- Stewardship Institute Maritime Temperate Coniferous Rainforest - Mild Wet Winter, Dry Summer
When we clear forest back to fields we leave the stumps and roots to rot in the soil. This is much slower but better than removing them. It's also a lot easier. They break down over a period of about 10 years. Livestock grazing takes care of the regen.