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Digging swales around established fruit trees?

 
Posts: 78
Location: zone 6
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I live in Zone 6, and there are a variety of fruit trees such as pear, apricot, plum, persimmon which are planted in two straight rows.

I want to dig swales around both rows to ensure they are irrigated consistently. I was concerned about digging around the trees, how close should I dig, would I damage the roots of the trees?

How far should I dig a swale away from a tree to ensure not to damage the root systems?
 
                                      
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Wouldn't it depend on how established the trees are? When did you plant them?
 
Savannah Thomerson
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Location: zone 6
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They were already planted when we purchased the property in January. I am assuming they are about two years old...though not 100% on that.
 
master pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Personally I think it would probably be safe to dig outside the furthest extent of the branches - outside the drip line.  I'm planning to do this around some fruit trees myself.
 
pollinator
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How far should I dig a swale away from a tree to ensure not to damage the root systems?



how far can you dig them away from the trees? can you dig them up hill side of the slope?
 
                      
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Location: Austin,TX
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If they're only two years or so you might think about digging them up (bit late now but can be done).
Then you can freely work with the contour and set it up correctly.  Rows are boring. Even just moving a few around to break the lines up.

Failing that you don't have to get super close to the tree to direct the water to it. Will also make the tree stretch to reach the water.


What's the topo like? Flat, steep...etc? Have any pics?
 
Tyler Ludens
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One doesn't have to make swales.  Basins will work as well, according to Brad Lancaster.

http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/
 
Savannah Thomerson
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Location: zone 6
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ape99 wrote:
If they're only two years or so you might think about digging them up (bit late now but can be done).
Then you can freely work with the contour and set it up correctly.  Rows are boring. Even just moving a few around to break the lines up.

Failing that you don't have to get super close to the tree to direct the water to it. Will also make the tree stretch to reach the water.


What's the topo like? Flat, steep...etc? Have any pics?



The area is flat - I will get some photos today and post soon
 
Jordan Lowery
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you can always build swales above ground with hugel beds. no digging needed and you benefit the trees greatly once the hugel effects kick in.
 
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Would it be possible and easier for you to dig those existing trees up, build your swales and then replace your trees along the swale where you would like them? Right now may not be a good time but you could pull that off in the fall after the trees go dormant. Maybe an idea.
 
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Location: Bastrop, TX
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Not sure my previous reply made it.
Given an orchard of fairly new fruit and nut trees planted in rows on contour. If you go in and add hugulkultur swales, would you build them along the uphill side of each row? My soil is a foot or so of sandy above a few feet of heavy clay. My thinking is that the trees need to be a bit uphill of whatever accumulation there is, though with the sand, drainage is mostly going to be simply slowed down, which is also fine.
Is that correct?
 
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Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
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You would want to put a hugelkulture berm on both sides, uphill and downhill, but the uphill side will be more important. The uphill berm will flow nutrients and water to the trees, the downhill berm will help keep the nutrients and water there.
 
Tyler Ludens
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hubert cumberdale wrote:you can always build swales above ground with hugel beds. no digging needed and you benefit the trees greatly once the hugel effects kick in.



This is what I hope to do, but I'm still not sure how close I should make them to existing trees.....
 
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yeah i would say dig like 5 or so feet away from the dripline, which is the outer most branches, you'll notice when it rains or they get water on the leaves the water runs off the leaves and generally drips along the outside of the leaves that are there, thats the dripline, but the trees are gonna grow more so look at how wide they get, especially at the trunk, with conifers you would go further from the tree i would think but with fruit trees you could probably go closer since the bottom of the tree doesn't get so covered in branches
 
Posts: 7055
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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I wondered if anyone has tried ground level hugelkulture for retaining water as discussed in this thread for fruit trees? I would like to add something in addition to basins for our larger fruit trees before next years drought spell. We have plenty of logs and brush....soil is more difficult. Thanks for any input.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Judith, do you mean buried wood beds? Since I completed installing buried wood throughout my kitchen garden, my kitchen garden apple trees are completely surrounded by buried wood for the first time this year and they have suddenly this year begun growing very quickly, it's really pretty dramatic considering they kind of sat there for about five years before this improvement. So yes, I would say burying wood around fruit trees helps tremendously and I don't ever plan to plant another fruit tree without surrounding it with wood.

 
Judith Browning
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Jordan Lowery wrote:you can always build swales above ground with hugel beds. no digging needed and you benefit the trees greatly once the hugel effects kick in.



I might have misunderstood this post. Digging just isn't practical where the fruit trees are...we just use picks and shovels and it is really rocky so too time consuming to do more than the hole and basin for the tree.

I am gled to hear that you noticed a difference with buried wood. I intend to do that with our spent shiitake logs over the winter in some garden beds.. I had a small comparison with two cherry trees this year...one planted in the open the other at a white oak stump from a tree that died last year. They are both alive but the one at the stump has all kinds of new growth.
 
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Yes laying the wood on the ground and topping it with soil/compost/mulch would be very close to digging it in. You'll get almost the same benefit.
 
Posts: 112
Location: Cave Junction, Oregon
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I'm also thinking to just building hugelkultur mounds on top of soil on both the uphill & downhill side would do the trick. That's what I'd do. Then planting with small shrubs, perrenial herbs and ground cover mix to shade roots of trees. Is the easy answer in my mind, and follows a lot of the illustrations I've seen. like this one. I would not risk digging them up myself.
holzer.jpg
[Thumbnail for holzer.jpg]
 
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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You can safely dig at a distance that is 1.5 times the height the of the tree. and also put a no dig hugelkultur between the rows.
You can also build up the swale until it becomes a hugelkultur 3-4ft even higher if you want to.
 
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