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Waterlogging during winter

 
Crt Jakhel
Posts: 120
Location: NE Slovenia, zone 6a
6
bee dog forest garden
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Hello everybody,

in our young orchard we've come in a situation that has not happened before in the 5 years we've had our property.

We're on flat land. This winter has brought the most snow so far. The snow is now melting and about 1/4 of the orchard is covered by water. Not deep, let's say 3-4 inches of standing water, but it's there. As the melting is still going on and is accompanied by rain - and since the soil ranges from somewhat to strongly clay-ey - it would be a surprise if the water is fully absorbed faster than in a week.

The 24-hour temperature range is about 0 - 5 C (32 - 41 F).

The trees are 2 to 5 year old cherries, pears, plums, apples, plus various berry bushes (currants, josta...).

My thinking is...
- this is bad for the trees since it can eventually suffocate and rot the roots;
- however, since the trees are still dormant this limits the amount of damage;
- but anyway, it's not fun for them and if the situation does not resolve in X days it's gonna be bad.

My question: what's X?

Thanks!

 
Saybian Morgan
gardener
Posts: 582
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
8
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Honestly I would rent a pipe laying trench digger and run lines out to whatever slow you do have. It might only add up to a half and inch over an acre in flat lands but directing the "surface" water ever so slightly away should suffice to bring the water back to ground level. The dormant tree's are mostly likely fine if the water is resolved in the next 4-6 weeks. Your not about to go anaerobic to the point of becoming a peat swamp, but it does present deflocculation of air pockets if the soil collapses from warming up and off gassing it's air without being able to breathe in at the soil level. I have plenty of muddy situations around my tree's but that's only happening at the feeder root level and their dormant. 2 feet into the ground is where the water is "not" going and hence you have 4 inches on the surface. By trenching slightly off contour your trying to channel water but really break through any hard-pan that your flatland may contain to open up drainage into the subsoil where it belongs. I don't recommend this unless you've got the conditions to support it but in a panic I'd probably throw down allot of gypsum to create as much drainage as I can using the standing water as an ideal spreading agent. I have enough acid soil that I'd feel safe to jerk the soil ph so quickly because it's the dormant time of year and I have allot of water I'm trying to work it in with. If i was trenching my way out of it the gypsum would go in the trench. How deep is up to you but were only talking about a 3-6 inch wide trench.

You know it wouldn't be the end of the world to spend 500 to 1000 bux and have an excavator put a pond in that you could channel the excess to save for later irrigation. I know 5 year's seems like a long time but to an ecosystem 5 growing season's is nothing, the biggest storm in 100 years is nothing. It's only us that see's things with such a narrow vision, I've seen so much in the past 4 years that I try and put in design's t flood/wind/fire/water/drought/quake proof my system. I basically don't trust anything will be as it was last.
 
Daniel Morse
Posts: 248
Location: SW Michigan
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You could drain them. I feel if it is a seldom condition they will be fine. If the water stays for more than a week of two, then drain. Remember, drain today can be dry tomorrow. Soil needs a good soak as often only the upper soil gets the water and it drains off. We see this on the plains and around here. The rains do not alleviate the droughts. The spring/winter soak will.

Build a pond near or in your orchard. A heat sink to help with frost and a supply of water.

Local conditions and varieties will have different needs and outcomes. Check around.
 
Crt Jakhel
Posts: 120
Location: NE Slovenia, zone 6a
6
bee dog forest garden
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Thanks for your quick replies, they're most welcome. I'm very happy to hear that a week or so should not do much damage to the trees. After today, about 10 dry days are forecast which would clean up everything nicely. This time of the year the weather forecast is usually not very stable but I'll take what I can get.

Indeed 5 years is only a lot to a person, statistically it's just noise, I understand that.

The soil composition here is really quirky, wherever I stick a shovel in I never know whether I'll find good soil, heavy clay or even bits of gravel. Nobody has lived at the property for some time before we came here and the neighbors don't exactly remember things that would provide hints.

A pond is something I've been drifting towards so this just gives me another push. Let's call this a benefit of the situation. However, part of the present standing water is happening very close to a part of the orchard that is normally particularly dry. For that reason I'm not entirely happy with directing water away completely.

I was thinking of making a trench filled with compressed straw and bits of old wood. My understanding was that this could act as a sponge to soak up excess water better than the soil itself. (Also, the fact that a trench cut into the earth would help taking the water to lower levels that might not normally receive it.)

In time, another feature would then be built to handle the water and the original soaker trench would be covered in soil and act as an underground hugel to plant in.

How does that sound? Is it realistic to expect a trench with compacted straw/wood to make much of an impact?
 
Saybian Morgan
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Posts: 582
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
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if your talking a trench that could fit a bail of hay then yes it would have a big effect, wood would be better if you have it, and wood chip footpath with raise bed / swales would be even better. I don't know where you live but woodchips I get by the tonnage, i've only ever paid for it once. I dug out all my footpath soil and threw it up to fill my walkways a foot deep. The clay/mud got layered onto hay to drain it down over time. You know where needs and where doesn't and you just go off contour where you want extra. I've gotten to the point where I make boardwalk footpaths out of pallet's we get so much water and fill them in with chips. The point of the pond is to stash for later since you were in no shortage of rainfall, if you've really got no rain coming you have allot of observation coming up about the infiltrative rates of different zones on your land.
 
Crt Jakhel
Posts: 120
Location: NE Slovenia, zone 6a
6
bee dog forest garden
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The weather forecast has been on the spot - standing water is mostly gone from the orchard now. So I guess it's realistic to hope it hasn't done any damage to the trees and was just a very good soaking that we will be thankful for in the summer months.
 
Crt Jakhel
Posts: 120
Location: NE Slovenia, zone 6a
6
bee dog forest garden
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Here we go again. Another round of snow, followed by rain. Standing water reappears. People in the village all going on about how they can't get anything done this year - too wet to plant, too wet to haul wood.

Next month's forecast is more of the same, clouds and rain with bits of snow sometimes. (Almost gets you started worrying about pollination if it all really turns out that way.) Not much sunlight at all, it's even hard to raise plant seedlings by natural light because there isn't much of it and they tend to overstretch. Bah!

On the other hand people are setting up holding tanks. It seems that they're betting that with all the water we are getting in winter/spring, the annual amount will stay the same. I figure I'll follow their example.

If we set into a flood/drought pattern then I guess all the techniques described here about increasing soil moisture holding capacity will become a very practical matter. I've been working on that slowly in previous years, diggin in straw and green manure, mulching with straw, spreading ash, but it looks like I need to put more effort in it to boost the entire garden/orchard area.
 
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