Planting fruit trees - tricky situation

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Bangyee, Feb 24, 2015.

  1. Bangyee

    Bangyee Junior Member

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    Hello all,

    We have a few acres here in north Spain which we just started to work on. We are about to plant some trees, only problem is, it's pouring down since days and the soil is quite soggy. This is mild oceanic, very humid climate (1500mm/year) and the soil is very sandy and acidic. So we thought we have good drainage. Still the planting holes we dug gave us some surprises : one day after digging them they filled with water. They are over a foot deep so they must have filled from surrounding ground water and surface seepage not direct rainfall. Only a few holes that were at the edge of the terrace remained empty, the rest are full to the brim - 8 paces distance made all the difference between holes and how they behaved. I did observe a good 2 inch decrease of water within a few hours when it doesn't rain intensively, but with heavy rain they keep refilling. Also digging down a foot next to the water filled holes, the soil looks normal, not like a soaked sponge anyway, so it doesn't look water logged. Still the newly created holes fill up quite quickly especially with this non stop rain.

    This raises some questions:
    1 We just bought our 2 year old bare root fruit trees - should we go ahead with planting despite the drencehd soil? At least we don't have to water... Just need to remove water form the planting holes and backfill with the currently rather soggy soil.
    2 Would the hole flooding effect occur if there is material in the holes? My gut feeling is that water is drawn in by the lack of resistance I.e. Lack of material and the soil is otherwise well drained (hence the quick reaction tom rain and pause in rain) Or are the flooded holes an indication of a (seasonaly) waterlogged soil? If so:
    3 would throwing some turf in the bottom of the holes and then backfilling with native soil to create a slight (few inch) mound above grade be a prudent move in this case?

    I would much appreciate your insights!

    [​IMG]
    One of the holes. Possibly one of the worst, here the soil was noticeably poorer turning into brick red clayish looking layer rapidly after the first half foot of top soil... The other spots have better soil profile but get filled up all the same...
    [​IMG]
    Holes on the left, on the edge of the terrace were not flooded..
     

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  2. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Hi, Bangyee. Looks like a beautiful place! Since it's on a hill you probably do have pretty good drainage over the course of a few months. Looks a lot like California there, oaks and temperate climate? My orchard is in heavy clay, so I have some of the same issues. A few questions about your fruit trees.

    1. What kind of rootstock is it? Is the rootstock the type that can deal with wet soils?

    2. What is your total average rainfall? If you are in a temperate part of Spain and rain only falls a few months out of the year, this rainy part will not hurt your trees. But if this level of rainfall happens more than half of the year, then only put the trees with rootstock that can deal with wet soils in the wettest holes. Put the other rootstocks out where the water wasn't as full in the holes.


    And you probably know to be sure to plant the graft facing south (in the northern hemisphere) so no moss or mold can form on it on the shady side.

    If I had a chance to plant my orchard again, I would use more Permaculture principles, meaning don't put only fruit trees next to fruit trees. Mix it up. Make a food forest. Plant the trees 2 or 3 times as far apart as you usually would, and fill in between with flowering and fruiting shrubs, shrubs that fix nitrogen, companion plants, herbs, flowers. I am retrofitting my orchard now to do that, and it's a lot of work. I wish the trees were farther apart.

    this is Robert Hart's explanation of a Food Forest on YouTube. He also has a book on it.

    https://youtu.be/IBQCKK4sLhg

    Sounds like you have good acidic sandy soil for blueberries. Do you plan on any of those? Check to see whether highbush blueberries or lowbush blueberries work best where you are. Putting one or two of them in between the trees will bring in beneficial insects and bees for good pollination.

    And I imagine you know about the correct trees that will pollinate each other, as an example, not 2 of the same apple, but 2 different apples that bloom at the same time. I have one poor pear tree that turns out it blooms so late there isn't another one to pollinate it with. I am still trying to remedy that.

    And you probably know about chill hours? And you know how many chill hours you get where you are, and that the fruit you bought gets enough chill hours where you are.

    Plan for some of the trees to not make it, or be a wrong choice, or a fat raccoon will climb it and break crucial branches. I think I've figured out they are after the snails that overwinter at the base, then get into the leaves in the spring and summer. It's okay if they don't all make it. It may not be your fault at all. You'll learn what does best where you are, and that is the most important thing to keep track of, rather than will something to work there that just doesn't do very well.

    And lots and lots of thick mulch around the base out to the dripline, but not close to the trunk where it can cause rot and allow mice to hide and chew the trunk.

    Hope this helps :)
     
  3. Bangyee

    Bangyee Junior Member

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    Thanks Sweetpea,
    Lot of good advice there!
    Ahh rootstocks... We are planting 35 fruit trees, 10 or so species (apple pear kiwi figs cherry sour cherry quince plums orange lemon lime), and multiple varieties within the species... Apple will be on Mm106 and M111 I think. Pear will be one of the quince rootstock can't recall... And so it goes on... Planning up the orchard has been a rush job I have to say, since we started the farm in January and were inundated with to-dos. All the while spring pressuring us to plant our trees...
    It rains a lot here, 1500mm is nigh 60 inches. This time of year and late autumn is supposed to be the wettest (~2inch per day average) the rest is less wet but there is always some rain falling here they say. But the rain of late has been over te top locals say so maybe this situation is just an extreme occasion and i wont have to worry much. I intend to put the pears to the wetter parts, i read they tolerate these conditions better. So I guess out planting equipment will be amended with a bucket to get brid of the excess water! :D

    Graft facing south - this is new info, good to know, thanks!

    Food forest - yes we plan to have one later with much more thorough planning. This planting is gonna be a compromise between intensive market orchard and food forest. We space the trees 6m/20ft apart which is generous I think.. Maybe not as much as a full on food forest but I expect the canopy to remain open as Martin Crawford suggest in his book Creating a forest garden (this is my main resource though he does refer to Rob Hart many times). So there should be space for some shrubby and understory support species maybe a N fixing tree or two even.

    Blueberries - oh yes they are grown in this region big time. Very good climate and soil for it. We will have some for sure. Maybe we will mix them with the trees as you suggest!

    Pollination - we did our best to ensure there won't be an issue. But nurseries here are not very precise wit their info on pollination and have some local varieties google has no idea about.. So in some case we just took the dive hoping flovering will overlap.. Having said that we also just went by faith in terms of chilling hours - hoping if the nursery sells the variety here, it should work here.

    Wildlife - we are preparing for the worst,putting up chicken wire tree guards. When there was snow the land was covered with immense amount of animal footprints. The only thing missing from the repertoire seems to have been big foot! And we saw deer and goats prancing around on the property many times. The surrounding woods are full of young trees with chewed up barks. Yikes!

    Anyways thanks a million for your suggestions. We will just go ahead with planting in the soggy soil as the bare root trees are already here since yesterday and are anxious to get planted!
     
  4. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Wow, 60 inches is a LOT! So I would put the more vulnerable rootstock where the water drains better. Even though it's a hillside, water will be passing through, but the roots will register this as steady water.

    If it's possible to make a swale at the top of the orchard to send off some of the rainfall, that might limit it a bit as to what gets down to the tree roots.

    One trick that is used here where ground water is prevalent, plant eucalyptus trees to suck up the water. They need a ton of water. But cut them before they get too big, because they make excellent firewood. They also drop excellent leaves and bark for compost. There have been studies done that show once eucalyptus has been composted it creates excellent soil humus. You don't want them maturing so they create shade. And you don't want them near a building as they drop whole limbs sometimes and cause damage. People who don't understand their value for composting think of them as "dirty" trees. Well, that's the whole idea! Get them to improve your soil and control your water and erosion. But they do become a chore of sorts. So if you really don't need what they can do, then maybe it's easier not to use them.

    I finally put up an 8 foot chicken wire fence around my garden, and that let me sleep at night. Deer chew on new growth even in late fall. When you are trying to get a good bicycle spoke structure to your fruit trees, breaking a limb becomes the loss of a year or two of growth.

    Wild goats? Wow. Maybe they will eat your weeds and poop nearby. But I wouldn't want them chewing on trunks or spring leaf growth.

    Sounds exciting, and I hope it goes well for you!
     

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