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poorly planted Fruit Trees  RSS feed

 
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Hello good people. Here is a story of some land being gifted to a group of happy gardeners to create a community garden. Unfortunately the top layer of soil was removed to landscape an unknowing thief.

Many types of trees were planted in a sandy loam, it was hard and ungiving.
5 years on and the trees have barely budged. Now there is a wild mass of flowers giving some well rounded nutrients to the soil i'm sure but thats about it apart from an inoculation of mycorrhizal fungi fungi around the roots of the plants.
I've decided to help out and forma plan of action. I'd like your thoughts.


I'm thinking:
Soil food web, adding EM1 to the area and the trees, they might have been surrounded by bad guy nematodes when they were planted. :L
Cover crops although its now a bit late in the year for that, so what sounds good to me is a good does of nitrogen (grass is still growing like wild fire here, and there are a lot of tree surgeons who might be up for dumping some of their woodchip load), mineral balancing after a lamotte soil test and trace mineral additions using our blessed sea water. Then cover the whole area in what i see as a great resource around here and thats cracking willow. Even planting some stems around for some chop and drop action in the years to come.

A question on debate is whether to take the trees up and replant them in some great soil first.
I was thinking maybe thats not a good idea as the trees have formed their own ecosystem by now and they just need some help, and maybe some gypsum to lossen the soil. I'm not sure how b est to add gypsum, I have it in powder form.. would sprinkling it on top help?

Any suggestons would be greatly heralded!
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garden master
Posts: 4785
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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First thing to address is that missing top soil, compost spread around each tree to at least a 3" depth will go a long way to helping the trees begin to thrive instead of just survive.
Grass cuttings can be layered in the middle of that compost mulch and that will then heat up enough to get some bacteria and fungi growing well.
The mycorrhizae that has been added was a great addition, but that needs some follow up with items that will help them become well established (the compost and grass clippings will do that nicely).
The use of sea water is also a good thing to do now, those trace minerals will appreciated by the bacteria which will feed the fungi which will feed the root system.
Some Epsom salts in the spring along with some more trace minerals will do nice things for the roots. Remember that the branches of the tree will follow the growth of the root system, not the other way around.

next spring would be the best time to make that addition of EM1, followed up with a fresh mulch which can be wood chips covered with compost and grass cuttings.

cracking willow will cause those trees to sprout suckers which is not a benefit to the trees.

Good luck, do things in a nice order and those trees will recover and thrive.

Redhawk
 
pollinator
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In addition to Redhawk's excellent advice, I would drill a few holes at the drip line of the tree and fill those with compost as well.
 
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Location: Apex, North Carolina
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Another tactic you could try is  to loosen up soil by using a broad fork. I had similar problem but with clay. So after getting some compost down, I used broadfork to open up soil without doing damage of tilling. It allowed soil to open up and get some oxygen, also some compost fell in to add Organics to soil (humis). That way after a rain water soaked in better and clay did not compact as much. Trees are doing much better now. But I may need to do area a little further out.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Posts: 4785
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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excellent point Steve, one of the issues of clay soils is a lack of 02 and broad forking is a great way to get some channels down deeper for air and water inflow.

Redhawk
 
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Location: Northern New Mexico, Latitude:35 degrees N, Elevation:6000'
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Good suggestions already. I'm not sure where you are but here's what I would do in addition to what's been mentioned.

Woodchips, if you can get them delivered by the dump truck load, I would do that. I would lay a thick layer of woodchips over the entire area. Typically they're free too, as most companies are happy to give them away instead of having to pay money to throw them in the landfill.  If you're going to lay down a thick layer of compost then I would do that first, and then put the layer of woodchips on top of the compost.  I would definitely want a layer of mulch over a layer of compost, especially if I spent money on the compost.  In my area the compost layer would dry out, and since it's the living biology I am after from the compost I would want it mulched to retain the moisture and keep it alive.

Get the soil biology going in the area.  I would use compost teas over the entire area at a minimum of once per week to really help regenerate a layer of biology.  I would use the beneficial micro organisims (EM1) if I had it on hand.  I don't know where you live so I don't know if you would be spreading them about in freezing temps or not, but in my area I could use them right now...for probably the next two to three months the soil will still be active.  And in fact last winter I could of used them through the winter.  But I don't know if your making them or buying it.  I make my own, so it's very cheap to use, which means I'll use it whenever I feel like it without worrying about wasting the cost of it.  (If you've layered compost 3" thick over the entire area, and covered it in mulch, then it would be pointless to make compost tea every week. Unless of course the compost layer dried out, which is why it would need to be mulched.)

Planting lots of nitrogen fixing trees in the plot and strategically keeping a few if possible as long term overstory trees.  Most all of the trees would be cut out and used as mulch via chop and drop.  I would intentionally plant multiple nitrogen fixing trees near the fruit trees to help break up the soil.  And as those trees die back from consistent chop ad drop their roots will decompose leaving new areas for the fruit trees roots to expand into.

Also planting lots of companion plants would be on the list.  Especially comfrey because it has a deep taproot.  But also lots of other beneficial plants as soon as you can get them established.

Everything you transplant....sprinkle some mycorrhizae fungi on the roots of every transplant. I use a combination instead of just one brand.

Earthworks may be of benefit..??  It would depend on the lot and a few factors.  Earthworks may be worth considering if you can install some to benefit the lot without harming what's established. I would likely do it.

Cover crops with beneficial bacteria would be worth seeding about.  It likely won't sprout through a layer of thick woodchips, so that's why I left this as the last idea.  I would personally prefer the woodchips to the cover crop.  But if I couldn't get access to woodchips, I would sow a cover crop, and use cover crops to build the soil.

You mentioned giving a good dose of nitrogen.  I don't follow the NPK stuff, so I don't know what you were planning on using for the nitrogen boost.  But I just wanted to mention that if you're wanting to build the biology in the area then I would avoid all salt based fertilizers.  Personally I would do compost tea instead of nitrogen.  And I would use a fungal dominate compost to make a fungal dominate compost tea.  Also look into fermented plant extracts.  Basically it's letting plants sit in a bucket of water to break down to make a liquid fertilizer concentrate. There's a good thread on permies.  Comfrey is commonly used.  It takes weeks to make, and it is said to smell horrible.  I've never made it...I've always stuck to my nice smelling compost teas.  LOL  But everyone that uses it says that it is quite amazing.

 
Adam Oaktree
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My apologies and thanks to everyone for my blankness and your great ideas.

I am in the uk actually so winter is fast approaching. Unfortunately the group looking after the plot are more focused on wild flowers and beautifying the area which is amazing! I just prefer fruit

Would a compost tea really go wasted on top of woodchip? My thoughts were to apply compost, em1 tea if I had it, fungi, then lay chip on top and some brush.
Also unfortunately people like aesthetics rather than what's best for the soil. Helping this orchard is a mini battle.

What would you use over here as a nitrogen fixer when the trees are already planted about 5 meters apart? bushes trees, your favourite? Probably best for another thread.
 
Posts: 1918
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Do you apple trees have grass right up to the trunks? Grass will drastically stunt the growth of apples, even in good soil. Mulching with something to suppress grass can make a huge difference.  I use a layer of cardboard, followed by a thick layer of wood chips, then plant comfrey around the drip line. The comfrey leaves shade the grass and prevent it growing back in, but it takes a couple of years to get the crowns properly established. Comfrey also mines the deep soil for trace minerals and as the leaves break down on the surface it feeds the shallow roots of the apples.
 
pollinator
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I'm with micheal on this one . I use grass to kill grass round my trees Cut the grass to encourage the flowers pile the grass in a polo* round the trees so it does not touch the trees .

David
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Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Adam Oaktree wrote:My apologies and thanks to everyone for my blankness and your great ideas.

I am in the uk actually so winter is fast approaching. Unfortunately the group looking after the plot are more focused on wild flowers and beautifying the area which is amazing! I just prefer fruit

Would a compost tea really go wasted on top of woodchip? My thoughts were to apply compost, em1 tea if I had it, fungi, then lay chip on top and some brush.
Also unfortunately people like aesthetics rather than what's best for the soil. Helping this orchard is a mini battle.

What would you use over here as a nitrogen fixer when the trees are already planted about 5 meters apart? bushes trees, your favourite? Probably best for another thread.



Compost teas are used as folar feeding, extracts (stronger solutions made from larger quantities of compost than teas) are better for this application method, you will end up with far more bioactivity this way.
I would try for some clovers such as Dutch White, depending on availability blue berries (low or high bush) would do well in between those trees.

Bulbs would also do nicely as rings around the trunks, and that might be to the "group's" liking. Might try early spring, mid spring and late spring bloomers all mixed together, just leave a trunk ring of around a foot, that way the trunk roots won't be harmed when the bulbs are planted.

Redhawk
 
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