replanting fruit trees

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by grobs, Feb 13, 2010.

  1. grobs

    grobs New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2010
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I live in South Australia and have very heavy clay soil. I planted about 15 fruit trees when I moved in 8 years ago. When I bought them, they were 2 years old. I had the fence guy bore some holes with his auger (probably 1m deep) and I put some gypsum and compost in. The trees were well watered and mulched, however, they are only between 1m and 1.5m tall so far and the last couple of years have not produced much, if any, fruit. I was wondering if it was possible to dig them up and replant them, possibly in above ground beds? This phenomenon is happening all over my garden - the trees either do not grow much or they die. Perhaps I did not dig the holes wide enough? I also cannot grow citrus here - 5 trees I bought last year have died already. The exception is a lemon which was almost dead when planted, received heaps of water, grew 2 metres in 2 years, produced the most enormous fruit and then died. What is happening?
     
  2. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2008
    Messages:
    2,215
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    36
    The problem with the technique you have used grobs, is that by drilling holes into the clay you have basically dropped the trees into pots that have no drainage. They may have had problems with water-logging (it would be helpful if you described what the death of the trees was like). Similarly they may have become root bound as the roots cannot escape from the hole with lovely compost in it out into the hard clay. This sounds about right for the description you gave of the lemon trees fate.

    You will need to take them out of those holes and dig much wider holes, if you do add compost you need to mix it in with the existing coil so that there is less of a barrier between the natural soil and the compost.

    I would also consider preparing the ground in advance for you trees, new or transplanted, using legumes and manures etc...

    Hope this helps
     
  3. permasculptor

    permasculptor Junior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2007
    Messages:
    727
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    18
    I think Graham is correct.A good technique is to fill the hole with water twice, if it does not drain in one hour after the second filling it will need to be mounded up higher or the drainage improved.
     
  4. grobs

    grobs New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2010
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    thankyou for your replies. I had an interesting situation with my soil just before xmas - I had been using a post hold digger to bore a hole for a post in my lawn. The ground was so hard I decided to fill the hole (maybe 20cm deep) with water to soften the soil. Much to my amazement, the hole was still full of water 24 hrs later!!!! I do indeed have very crappy soil.
     
  5. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2007
    Messages:
    2,721
    Likes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    inland Otago, NZ
    Climate:
    Inland maritime/hot/dry/frosty
    Also check out mulch basins. Oasis Designs' grey water book has a good explanation, or you can probably find information online.

    You think lots of clay is bad. Try gardening on sand ;-)
     
  6. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2009
    Messages:
    2,456
    Likes Received:
    10
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    Farm manager/ educator
    Location:
    Hunter Valley New South Wales
    Home Page:
    Climate:
    warm temperate - some frost - changing every year
    Be very thankful for the clay as it has embodied nutrient waiting to be released by good soil management. The colloidal nature of the clay will assist in making beautiful soil if you pay some attention to adding organic matter and careful tillage (not too wet - not too dry) You will be rewarded if you listen to master Grahame.
    the oasis link should be https://www.oasisdesign.net/greywater/index.htm
     
  7. Aaronj

    Aaronj Junior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2010
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Heavy clay

    I live in an area of very heavy (alkaline) clay in Colorado. I am having good success with tree planting, the technique is specific for extreme hot, cold, dry situations and is time consuming.

    First, if at all possible deep rip your soil with a yeomans type plow the season before you plant. Cover crop it. I use deep rooted nitrogen fixers, rye, and daikon radish to keep the soil open. Rip in the early-mid summer when soil is dry but not dusty. Never rip or work heavy clay when it is wet. The tricky part is that because it holds water so well the surface can be very dry, but still .5 meter down is wet and will smear when worked.

    When you dig a shovel into lightly wet clay, usually you will see a very smooth surface. The same thing happens with augers or plows. This is called smearing or glazing. When this happens, it becomes nearly impossible for roots of trees and water to penetrate.

    The best shape hole is wide, at least three times the tree height, and shallow like a big shallow saucer. If you dig a square hole, you will also eliminate the possibility of roots going round and round, leading to root bind. The corners of the hole focus the roots into an edge where they have to penetrate out. Also the shallow dish shape encourages roots that can not penetrate down to angle up to the soil surface where they benefit from oxygen and moisture. The hole only needs to be as deep as the tree you are planting, not deeper.

    Next, place the tree so it is exactly level with the original soil surface, not deeper or in a raised mound. Make sure the hole has rough edges and no glazing, then back fill the hole with the original material only, adding no compost or other goodies. The idea is to get the tree accustomed as quickly as possible to its new environment and force it to 'go looking' for food. If there is a bunch of compost in the hole it will tend to stay there where the food is good, compounding the problem that happens with glazing.

    Gently pack the soil in and then add compost and worm castings on the surface all around the tree. You can put a lot (5-10) cm of compost if available, and in as wide an area as you have mulch available to cover it.

    The next stage is to completely mulch (20-30 cm) over all the area that you spread the compost. The idea is to imitate a rich topsoil at the surface where the roots do most of their feeding. The wider the area you treat, the more quickly the roots will spread over the surface. Because there are plenty of roots with access to oxygen, this avoids the risk of drowning the tree in a deep hole when the clay becomes super saturated.

    Then thoroughly water all the area that you have mulched. I prefer using sprinkler type irrigation in the early morning or late evening when evaporation is low. Drip irrigation is ok, especially if the drippers are moved to new locations periodically, encouraging more even root development.

    There are special augers that make a large, shallow and rough hole. I have heard of people using an excavator to loosen very large areas, and also people who use small explosive charges to shatter and loosen compacted clay.

    Also I am just starting to experiment with biochar as a method for getting more organic material into the soil. It is so hot and dry here, that virtually all the organic material gets burned up and blown away. Biochar has the potential to be a lasting and stable way to overcome this problem.

    all the best
    A
     
  8. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2008
    Messages:
    2,215
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    36
    I whole-heartedly agree with Aaronj's method
     
  9. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2005
    Messages:
    1,442
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    0
    grobs, don't be discouraged. I have heavy clay soil and fruit trees, and they were slow to take off. If you rip them up you will slow them down even more. They are adjusting, they will take time, but they'll be fine. Your soil is your soil, the roots have to go deep into your clay. And if you make the top soil different from the clay, the roots will circle, possibly even staying near the top and they won't be stable trees, they'll be vulnerable to the wind, the roots will stay where the fancy stuff is.

    Because you are wanting to develop strong, deep roots the first 3 years, you're supposed to pick off the fruit anyway, so don't judge the tree by the fruit. You might have pollenation issues, you might have temperature issues, lack of fruit is not necessarily due to soil. A healthy, open branching system with nice healthy leaves are what to focus on for the first 3 years. Some fruit doesn't even get going until year 5.

    What you need to do is get worms around those trees as fast as you can. They will open up the clay, poop in it. When you get a shovel full of soil from a ways away from the tree, how many worms are in it? 3? 5? 10? Between 5 and 10 is what you are after. The soil has to be moist, not soggy, for them to stay in it.


    Put at least a hand's depth of mulch of leaves, mowed grass all around the tree out a third of a meter beyond the dripline. Maintain this depth all summer, where I am it means adding it weekly. Sorry, my meters are not good, I'm an inch/foot person. Keep it away from the trunk by about a finger's length. Press it gently down with your foot, but not all your weight, don't let it be fluffy. Make sure you water for a long time, but not that often...drippers for 4 hours only once a week out at the dripline. That way the water will go deep and the roots will have to go down after it. The mulch will keep the moisture in the soil, the clay will hold moisture nicely down below the surface. There are good minerals in clay, but it's deep, and that's where you need to get those roots.

    You can also put a half inch of rock sand that has minerals in it under the mulch. I use granite sand...but whatever you can get that doesn't have salt in it (sea sand has salt)...basalt sand is fabulous...the minerals will make the fruit taste great. The worms will suck it through and take it down under the roots.

    I feed my trees compost tea I make in a garbage can...5 gallons of urine, 1/2 gallon of white vinegar, a dozen eggs, fill it with water, and stir it vigorously with a leaf rake twice a day for 3 days. Then give each tree a bucket full. During the summer do this twice a month.

    Cover crops are great, but they are slow. Plant them now, as suggested above, but it will take them too long to help your trees this year. The mulch/worms/compost/compost tea are much faster. I have good luck with purple vetch, burr clover and bird's foot trefoil, which is a perennial and can be walked on easily

    One thing that really slowed my trees down were the deer nibbling at them. I didn't think they were doing much, but they were really slowing things up. Also raccoons are heavy and can climb and break branches. Make sure you are the only critter out there with the trees.
     
  10. permasculptor

    permasculptor Junior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2007
    Messages:
    727
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    18
    what does the vinegar do sweetpea?
     
  11. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2005
    Messages:
    1,442
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Vinegar adds acidity. But it needs to be dilute, or it can actually act as a plant killer. I've tried it as a weed killer, but on my stubborn weeds it just sets them a back a bit, and they recover. Urine might be alkaline, (I've read it's neutral, my weeds are crazy green from it, so just in case) and clay tends to be alkaline, so giving it some acid in a quick form helps :)
     

Share This Page

-->