I have 20 acres in northeastern WA. I do not live there full time yet, but I would like to start planting some fruit and nut trees so In five years I will have fruit bearing trees. When I develop the swales next year and start planting do I need to do any watering or will they get enough from the annual rainfall and wales by design? any help will be appreciated
The swales are meant to supply water to the system over a long period. I would just plant your trees and wish them luck. Just try to get the trees planted after the swales have had time to do their work (I.e. swales constructed late summer/fall then trees the following g spring. I would think about planting a lot of tree seeds (fruit and nurse trees) right after you build the swales as well. Planting things like apples, cherries, nuts, and black locust (of course!)is what I would do with a nice mix of cover crops (clover, diakon, etc), then mulch it all nice for the winter. The following spring you could put some bare roots if you wanted, but I think the trees from seed would catch up pretty quick. I would bet within the five year time frame you talked about there would be little difference between the two. Might be a nice experiment.
I'd say it depends on how much rain you get. I planted my trees just in time for 2 weeks of 80-90 degree temps. They were a bit wilty. I have soaker hoses running on top of the berms. I do water when needed. That's only been twice. Mulch is a big helper. The deeper the mulch the less likely you are to need to water.
In my opinion though, trees are expensive. Water the first year a few times at least.
I'm in the beginning stages of a similar project (one big swale started this early spring) and this is what I've found:
It depends A LOT on the kind of soil you have and how deep your topsoil is. (Also how high the water table is below.) If the stuff doesn't hold moisture well, things will be generally scraggly except the really tough stuff. (So plant tough pioneer species that will improve the soil for you: dynamic accumulators like comfrey, yarrow, yellow dock… tap rooted folks like mullein, burdock, and DAIKON!… nitrogen fixers like the clovers, vetch, lupin.)
Young tiny tree seedlings get readily choked out by the cover crop seeds you planted as well as those you didn't. Same for tender starts. Grasses and annuals get huge and snuff out our tiny woody friends. A border of cardboard or some other such mulch around a young plant helps to defend the above ground space (and below, I'd think) but then leaves a tiny tiny tree or shrub seedling vulnerable to heat, drought, and animals. Not a high survival rate. However, may be a different story with something "weedy" like black locust. Haven't tried that yet. (And ALSO maybe of the many tree seeds I planted, some have survived and I will see them in the spring. But it doesn't look hopeful…)
Large trees planted in need lots of water. Small bare root stuff and scions might do ok, but better with (cardboard) mulch so as not to be intruded upon (also retains moisture).
Seeds are a small investment of money but you really have to take care of them… (I know that may be obvious but I really learned it this year trying to grow trees. I have a lot that lived but such a small percentage to what died! Mostly fried in the sun.) Perhaps you can grow a bunch of babies from seed in pots in Arizona and then move them up to WA in a couple years when they are stronger. It may seem silly but I recently did a smaller version of that and found it to be cost effective and productive, if not a little crazy.
Sorry if this informations seems scattered. If you have any questions, just ask. I've been thinking about this a lot and experimenting a bit for the past year and I'd be glad to share anything that might be helpful.
I also wrote in excessive detail about my swale planning planting in another thread and showed pictures of it this spring…. :
Location: Phoenix, AZ
posted 5 years ago
Thanks Meghan! this gives me some things to consider...