Pine tree root systems can present a challenge if you’re growing organic vegetables, but some vegetables will grow well near pines with a little planning and preparation. Before planting, evaluate the density of shade, test the soil, clear the planting area of tree roots by pruning safely and supplement the soil with organic matter.
Some vegetables will grow well with six hours of daily sun. These include cabbage; leafy greens like spinach and kale; lettuce; and root vegetables like carrots and potatoes. Vegetables that produce fruit from flowers require the most sun. Those like tomatoes need at least eight hours of sun daily to flourish. They may not be the best choices for planting near a pine tree.
Pine trees prefer growing in slightly acidic soil and so do most vegetables. But many pines are tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions but many vegetables are not. Testing your soil before planting can save time, money and effort. Use a comprehensive kit or testing service that evaluates soil pH, chemistry, structure and organic content. A quality soil test will allow you to indicate vegetables as the desired crop for the area then recommend appropriate soil amendments.
Bare in mind – pine trees develop an extensive tap root system and a range of broad feeder roots in some instances. Pruning these too closely to the tree’s trunk can damage or kill it. Before digging, measure the trunk of the tree then multiply that times 5. This will be the distance from the trunk where you can safely till or dig. For example, do not remove the roots of a pine tree with a 2-foot-diameter trunk any closer than 10 feet away from the trunk.
With growing organic vegetables nature is of utmost importance. Feeding the pine tree particularly if a mature pine may become somewhat compacted and nutrient-deficient as the pine tree roots have taken up a large portion of them. Organic supplementation can correct this. Before planting vegetables near the pine tree, work in a 3- to 4-inch layer of vegetable compost, aged manure and a soil conditioner to a depth of 12 to 18 inches. This will benefit almost any type of soil, and will protect your vegetables and pine tree using organic principles and encouraging vigorous vegetable root systems and healthy growth.