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My almond tree won't grow (heavy clay soil)

 
Posts: 9
Location: Spain
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So my almond tree is 4 years old now and it is only 1.5 meters tall. Some 1 year old almond trees are larger!!

I have tried gypsum and worm castings, but the soil is still hard as hell. I fertilized my tree with KNO3 (potassium nitrate) following David Doll indications for young trees, nothing.

http://thealmonddoctor.com/2011/03/25/fertilizing-young-almond-trees-a-few-tips/

is there any chance I can make my little friend grow and become taller than myself? :)

p.s. at this point I am not sure if I should consider my tree 1 year old or 4 years old, in other words I don't want to burn the tree by tossing too much nitrogen.
 
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Location: Kentucky - Zone6
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I have similar issues when I dug a hole, put a tree in with some nice soil and amendmends. The problem may be that such trees stay rootbound as they don't want or can't get into the hard clay and stay in the nice soil. In addition, rain does not drain as well in clay, so it is stuck in the nice soil perhaps rotting roots so the tree may be working hard putting out new roots to replace the ones rotting or diseased, I planning on addressing this this year thanks to the idea from Marco Banks:

"One example:   I had a failure-to-thrive cherimoya tree in my orchard.  Whatever I tried, it just didn't seem to grow very well.  I mulched around it regularly, but it just didn't want to grow.  It had been in the ground for 8 years, but very poor growth and hardly any fruit.  Four years ago I planted about 20 comfrey plants around it, starting at 2 feet from the trunk and then out past the drip line.  Very quickly, the comfrey filled-in and created a green moat around the little struggling tree.  Twice a year, I chop and drop all that biomass around the tree.  The first year, not much difference.  The second year, the comfrey had fully grown in around the tree and it started to look much better --- healthier leaves, more blossoms, and some significant growth with the branches jumping up about a foot.  Last summer, that tree took off and grew a couple of feet.  Without going to heroic lengths to pollinate (which you'd understand if you grew cherimoya), we had a dozen nice fruit on it.  This summer, it's grown about 3 feet thus far and probably will grow at least another foot or two before it drops its leaves in Feb.  Nothing changed in terms of my care for that tree other than the addition of the comfrey.  But the effect upon the soil around the tree is stunning --- black, crumbly, full of fat worms --- and there are about 30 ripening cherimoya hanging on the branches. "
https://permies.com/t/40/65490/Growing-Comfrey

Hope it helps you as well

M
 
Daniel Larusso
Posts: 9
Location: Spain
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Oh smart idea there ^^ I might try.

Yeah I had read about planting dandelions whose roots are strong and break the hard clay soil, is this the same for comfreys? I am not sure if comfreys would grow well in Spain, we have 40ºC (104ºF) in summer and 0ºC (32ºF) in winter.
 
pollinator
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I don't amend my clay soil before planting trees anymore, for the same reason Maarten mentioned.  I have had really good luck with mulching around my trees with very thick layers of wood chips to keep the ground soft.  I also plant a ring of daffodils around the tree at a foot or so out from the tree, and then go out another couple feet and plant a ring or double ring of comfrey.  I don't even chop mine most of the time, I just let them grow because the bees love the flowers.  Comfrey should grow really well there.  Our temps are more extreme, and mine grows really well in my heavy clay.

In addition to breaking through the heavy clay soil, comfrey brings in huge amounts of worms.  I often find worms that have eaten right into the roots.  I'm sure all those worms are making pathways for the small tree roots to follow as well.
 
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I wonder if planting tillage radishes would accomplish a similar result . Comfrey is great since it is a perennial.
 
Trace Oswald
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John Tietjen wrote:I wonder if planting tillage radishes would accomplish a similar result . Comfrey is great since it is a perennial.



John, that's a good point, and I use them a lot as well.  They are also a worm-magnet.
 
Daniel Larusso
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Location: Spain
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Trace Oswald wrote:I don't amend my clay soil before planting trees anymore, for the same reason Maarten mentioned.  I have had really good luck with mulching around my trees with very thick layers of wood chips to keep the ground soft.  I also plant a ring of daffodils around the tree at a foot or so out from the tree, and then go out another couple feet and plant a ring or double ring of comfrey.  I don't even chop mine most of the time, I just let them grow because the bees love the flowers.  Comfrey should grow really well there.  Our temps are more extreme, and mine grows really well in my heavy clay.

In addition to breaking through the heavy clay soil, comfrey brings in huge amounts of worms.  I often find worms that have eaten right into the roots.  I'm sure all those worms are making pathways for the small tree roots to follow as well.



Thanks a lot!

What do you think of dandelions? I heard their roots are deep and they do well in clay soils.

I was also recommended to add perlite and/or zeolite to my soil to make it more porous.
 
Trace Oswald
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Daniel Larusso wrote:

Trace Oswald wrote:I don't amend my clay soil before planting trees anymore, for the same reason Maarten mentioned.  I have had really good luck with mulching around my trees with very thick layers of wood chips to keep the ground soft.  I also plant a ring of daffodils around the tree at a foot or so out from the tree, and then go out another couple feet and plant a ring or double ring of comfrey.  I don't even chop mine most of the time, I just let them grow because the bees love the flowers.  Comfrey should grow really well there.  Our temps are more extreme, and mine grows really well in my heavy clay.

In addition to breaking through the heavy clay soil, comfrey brings in huge amounts of worms.  I often find worms that have eaten right into the roots.  I'm sure all those worms are making pathways for the small tree roots to follow as well.



Thanks a lot!

What do you think of dandelions? I heard their roots are deep and they do well in clay soils.

I was also recommended to add perlite and/or zeolite to my soil to make it more porous.



Dandelions work well too, and work really well in clay soil.  

I don't put anything into my soil any more, just on top.  I think you would need a really enormous amount of perlite to make a difference.  I also prefer to use material I have on my land or a locally available resource when at all possible, and I don't have access to perlite without buying it.
 
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Daniel Larusso wrote:Oh smart idea there ^^ I might try.

Yeah I had read about planting dandelions whose roots are strong and break the hard clay soil, is this the same for comfreys? I am not sure if comfreys would grow well in Spain, we have 40ºC (104ºF) in summer and 0ºC (32ºF) in winter.



Daniel, I know this reply is a bit late...but if you haven't tried it yet, plant your comfrey in the shade.  I live in Texas and we have similar temperatures.  I tried many times to grow comfrey in the full sun but it failed every time.  Then I decided to grow it in the shade and it thrived.  I keep a supply of comfrey growing on the north side of my home, in full shade.  It loves it there.
 
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there are some turnips that will grow deep and help to loosen packed soil, not sure what variety is best
 
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Daniel, here are a couple of threads that might help.

I thought daicon radishes might help break up the soil do I found this thread:

https://permies.com/t/39272/decompact-soil-forest-garden

This thread is just a general care for trees that are having problems:

https://permies.com/t/121384/fruit-tree-doesn-produce-fruit
 
pioneer
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I had luck with an almond tree in heavy clay on my clients property. No amendments, only a thick layer of woodchips. My guess is that the increased mycelium and worm activity did the job.
 
pollinator
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Hi Daniel
where about are you in Spain?
I am based in Catalonia. I planted a dozen almonds trees last spring in a silty/clay soil (first 30 cm) all clay below and they seems to be thriving. Before, the tree plantation was a wheat field in conventional agriculture. So the soil was (and still is) compacted but deep. Actually I can say that there is a very thin soil there it is almost all subsoil.
I had some soil conditioning going on for a couple of years before planting, sowing cover crops (vetch & oats + mustard) + soil ripping with a subsoiler, twice and deep mulching of course. Unfortunately I couldn't find any wood chips so had to use straw bales (which we had tons of them) and cardboard. Not too bad though. The straw has passed the summertime well and has kept the grass to compete with the young trees. The cardboard is still there only partly decomposed.

I think in my area (and in general I reckon) it was important to choose the right root-stock, in this case we used a hybrid "GF 677" peach x almond root stock that can live well in clay soils and high alkalinity lime soils. Also I used mycorrhiza inoculum at planting time and biochar mixed with compost. So far so good...
I like the idea of planting comfrey all around but it will need irrigation where my trees are. Maybe dandelions will be a better choice for semi arid conditions like mine.
Keep us posted
 
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