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Planting trees in wet areas

 
                                                
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My garden is coming along, but I really want to add some fruit trees, but  all of the ones I see want well-drained soil. I have clay. We also had an ungodly amount of rain this year, and my backyard was literally underwater for a month. How would I get trees to grow well in this?  they are not the most inexpensive things to buy, and I dont want to lose a bunch to root-rot.
 
                  
Posts: 114
Location: South Carolina Zone 8
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I've got clay but not the standing water issues due to good surface drainage. For the clay you need to dig a hole much larger than you would normally and add organic matter and sand if you have it to make it easier for the three roots to grow and become established. If I had drainage issues I would raise the area I was planting the tree by making a mound (if necessary haul in soil) this year and planting a ground cover to prevent it from washing down and then next year plant the tree. A raised bed will serve the same purpous but personally I prefer the look of a mound as it is more natural than a formal bed. That said I have never faced both clay and drainage issues together.

BTW Before I planted anything I would look at the drainage issue and see what I could do to keep my backyard from being underwater. You could simply need to look at the ditching or natural drainage for the area and see if there is a dam or restricted area causing water to back up in heavy rains. Of course there are a lot of other things to do or consider including that it simply has been a wet year and what you have experienced is not normal so nothing to worry about. Whatever you find out and decide to do I would do before planting even if it means building up the yard/property over a period of years.
 
                    
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i was actually just planting some trees in an area with a fairly high water table. its seasonal and drops a little in summer. i dont really know whats gonna happen but i got about 5 different types of fruit, and several cultivars so hopefully some like it enough to live and i can replace the ones that don't.
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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you need to build mounds of lighter soil so that when you plant the tree its above the water line by at least 6 inches, preferably a ft. this way the crown of the root will be in well drained soil, but the lower feeder roots will be in the moisture giving you water free trees once established.
 
                    
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i bit the bullet and did a little replanting. super busy but hopefully the added labor will pay off. i built three mini hugels for my fruit trees i planted today. got three more tomorrow. now hopefully the thorns keep the deer off and i can fell some of the larger trees away from my youngin fruits. 
 
Brenda Groth
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Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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Observe, are there any areas that did NOT flood? those are your higher and better drained areas..

IF not, maybe you could dig a deep pond in the lowest wettest area, that will help to drain the water away from the higher and drier areas..

you can use the fill you remove from the pond to build up an area, preferably north of the pond if possible or west, and then use the top soil on top of that..and grow your fruit trees there, on the north or west bank above your pond..

I have done that here, used to be our water table was about a foot below the surface..but we have used a lot of fill and pond work to build up drier areas..see blog

also we had one area that was super well drained, never had any standing water on it..the food forest garden baby is planted there now..and I have put a few lower hugel beds in there too, but hope to build a few up higher this year.
 
                                                
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So I just wanted to be in the garden yesterday, so i went out and started digging about where I want a tree.  I dug down about 3 feet (light clay for about 4 inches, then heavy clay the rest of the way), and about 2X3 feet wide.  I broke up a bunch of oak branches and leaves and threw them in the hole, along with a bunch of grass clippings, and a couple shovels full of my compost pile (not compost yet, mostly grass and oak leaves), a little ash because it was available from my outdoor fireplace, and mixed it in as I put the dirt back in the hole.  I also have a bag of commercial compost that I mixed a bit in, but I am saving that for nearer the rootball for transplanting.  the hole is about a third full, and I was going to wait for more organics, and probably a bag of sand to go in before I finish filling it.  I figure I should have plenty of dirt to build it up 6"-12" for the tree since I added so much material. 
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
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Peter K. wrote:
I've got clay but not the standing water issues due to good surface drainage. For the clay you need to dig a hole much larger than you would normally and add organic matter and sand if you have it to make it easier for the three roots to grow and become established. If I had drainage issues I would raise the area I was planting the tree by making a mound (if necessary haul in soil) this year and planting a ground cover to prevent it from washing down and then next year plant the tree. A raised bed will serve the same purpous but personally I prefer the look of a mound as it is more natural than a formal bed. That said I have never faced both clay and drainage issues together.


Be sure that you build a high mound, because the hole you make in clay will fill up like a bucket and drown any plant unfortunate enough to be planted too low.
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
Posts: 855
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Due to small pores and thereby strong capillary conductivity, a clay soil can be saturated with water, and short in oxygen, twelve inches above the observed water table.  Google 'redoximorphic features' to get an education on observing oxygen deficit in soils.

I have often wondered about the value of hugelcultur in wet settings.  In wetlands I frequently see dry-land plants like sword fern and salal quite happily living on a log in the middle of a beaver pond.
 
                    
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interesting that i ran into this thread the day i was attempting some fruit trees in a wet area. i also had thoughts about what benefit a hugel could really have here, my main reason for doing it was to help bring height without having to steal or purchase dirt. i hadn't really considered that the hole, where i was just reaching down into clay at about a foot and a half would now hold water like a bucket. i have the plant a little over 2 feet above the water line now in what is the wet season. I have no idea about just about anything anywhere, but i do know that if these trees are not meant to live there they will show it and i will learn a hundred dollar and 6 hour lesson.

with reference to these trees they are about 3 years old id guess and i planted them in a wooded spot that will eventually be de-wooded. does anyone think it matters if i wait a year before i get around to "releasing" them? would they benefit or be harmed from shade this year. cherries, peach, plum, apricot, i think all the persimmon have been eaten by bears coyote and deer
 
            
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I, too, am looking at planting a peach tree in a wetland area. The seasonal high water table is seven inches below grade and there is a stream that is about 20' from where I would like to plant it, which, after very heavy rains, sometimes breeches it's bank. But, as quickly as it floods, it's gone. The tree is potted, so should I just set the tree right on grade and build a mound around it? Or, should I raise it up a bit higher?
 
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