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Planting fruit tree next to dead tree stump: good idea?  RSS feed

 
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I have two thick tree stumps: one dead, another dying (freshly cut, I keep pulling out the suckers until it gives up).

Will planting a tree right next to the tree stump be a kind of effective hugelkultur? Conventional gardening sites like sghomegate say it's a bad idea as it'll hinder the growth and health of the new tree. But it seems like hugelkultur to me, only the tree stump is hasn't been placed there unnaturally.

My clay soil gets extremely dry in summer no matter how much I water it. If the tree stump can hold moisture then maybe it can help moisten the new tree?
 
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Yes, you can do it and yes, it's a good idea.  I've done so repeatedly with successful results.  I wouldn't plant the new tree directly next to the old one, but within a foot or so will not hurt things.  You commonly see this in forests, where new trees are growing up next to the stump of an old tree.

The largest benefit would be the almost instant access that the new tree will have to the old tree's fungal network.  

However, there are two primary types of fungal species that you'll find in most gardens/orchards.  One forms a symbiotic relationship with living roots to gain food, while the other gains its food from decomposing organic matter.  Obviously, the fungi that works in symbiotic relationship with living roots is the variety you want to see in your orchard.  This type of fungi will provide nutrients to your new tree in exchange for sugars that the tree will secrete from its roots in the form of root exudates.

The other form of fungi eats decomposing material, like that found in the old stump and underground network of roots.  The two different fungal networks are not competing for the same food source, so they shouldn't bother one another.

One other thing to consider; sometimes a new tree will keep the roots of the old tree alive by providing sugars.  In his book, "The Hidden Life of Trees", Peter Wohllenben speaks about old, old ash trees that are nothing more than roots from trees that seemingly died over 100 years ago, still being kept alive by the network of other tree roots that surround it.  These younger trees are most likely the daughters of the mother tree, growing from seeds that the mother dropped decades earlier.  Crazy, huh?  He describes one old stump where there was barely anything growing above the ground, but the ancient tree roots were still alive and well.  The fungal network also serves to keep these old tree roots alive, long after all signs of life above ground have rotten away.

 
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Good information from Marco,

I will add that it is now known that sibling trees not only keep the mother tree's roots alive but these sibling trees will use their mother's root system once the mother can no longer produce new growth above ground.
How this works is through both mycorrhizal interactions and root entwining that eventually marries the new tree's roots to the mother trees roots.

Redhawk
 
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Almost all of my gardens are planted in an area which was a forest.

I cut down the trees which were damaged or sick and replaced them with fruit and nut canopy trees then gradually with lowers layers of useful and beautiful trees, shrubs and other plants. I left all the roots and use the new whips which grow from them for the protection of vulnerable plants from our poultry and our six dogs.

This was shortly after some of the trees had been cut :



This was the same view six month later :



I now have a mature and thriving forest garden with a few clearings for growing annuals and some new trees.



I'm sure the old trees helped the young ones to become established quickly and the stumps add interest, definition, variety and beauty to the mix.

I tend not to listen to what people say unless I know they've tried things themselves.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Irene, great garden space.
I have used "stumps" as focal points since they are great for setting potted plants on to stand out.
 
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Irene your place is inspiring!
I love the cooperation among the trees. I wonder, is it limited to related trees, or does it work with any within a species?
What about between different species of tree?
Can we posit that it is the fungal network that makes that determination?

A living root system might cooperate with a new tree, a dead and decayed one might be food for a new tree.
Can the process of decay lock up nitrogen that that the new tree might other wise use?
I don't know, the forest seems to work things out just fine...
If we wanted to accelerate the decay and keep the soil nitrogen available we could bore holes in the stump and pack them with urine/manure.


 
Bryant RedHawk
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William Bronson wrote: Can we posit that it is the fungal network that makes that determination?
A living root system might cooperate with a new tree, a dead and decayed one might be food for a new tree.
Can the process of decay lock up nitrogen that that the new tree might other wise use?
If we wanted to accelerate the decay and keep the soil nitrogen available we could bore holes in the stump and pack them with urine/manure.



Non-mycorrhizal fungi networks will work with almost all tree species, mycorrhizae tend to be genus specific not species specific so all prunus tree species (as an example) would benefit from the same mycorrhizae being present.
Decay releases nutrients, it does not lock up any nutrient, it also releases carbon that was sequestered.
fungi would be the best way to accelerate decay, far better at it than boring holes and filling with urine and manure would be.
 
Irene Kightley
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Thanks William, I think your comment that "The forest seems to work things out just fine" is just perfect !

I'm a lazy gardener, I leave branches and leaves and organic stuff all over the place, knowing that they'll be just fine where they are and as long as I can walk around them they don't bother me.  

I don't know much about fungi and that's why it's great to have people like Bryant RedHawk in the forum who can give us an explanation of why things work - that gives me (and I'm sure other people) the motivation to learn more about connections and nature. Thanks Bryant.
 
William Bronson
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Bryant, I've mixed autumn leaves I with   my raised beds, only to have poor results. I've read that was due to the available nitrogen being used by the soil organisms in the process of decaying the carbon in the leaves.
Top dressing with these leaves seems to avoid this.
This narrative y parallels the woodchip narrative, but you have me questioning both.

I had imagined that adding nitrogen rich urine etc, would feed the fungus and o the soil life, fueling decay.

The idea of nonmycorrhizal networking is also new to me.

I'll have to drop in on your soil building thread  and refine my understanding.

 
Tim Kivi
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Well I planted my apple tree next to the big stump. I should take a picture for the future to show how it turns out.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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William Bronson wrote:Bryant, I've mixed autumn leaves I with   my raised beds, only to have poor results. I've read that was due to the available nitrogen being used by the soil organisms in the process of decaying the carbon in the leaves.
Top dressing with these leaves seems to avoid this.
This narrative y parallels the woodchip narrative, but you have me questioning both.

I had imagined that adding nitrogen rich urine etc, would feed the fungus and o the soil life, fueling decay.

The idea of nonmycorrhizal networking is also new to me.

I'll have to drop in on your soil building thread  and refine my understanding.



I don't mix leaves or wood chips into the soil, I use these as mulch because there is a slight nitrogen loss up to 5 mm around any non-decaying (as in already in the process of decay) organic materials.
If you dig leaves, wood chips, branch bits and even green stems there will be less nitrogen around those until the bacteria get going well, if these items are used as a mulch the only space for nitrogen loss is at the soil surface where the contact is.
Diluted urine is a great way to off set the temporary loss of buried fresh organic matter (again stuff that hasn't started the decay process).
Several mycologists papers published over the last four years have found that all hyphae (the threads of fungi that spread through the soil) will knit and make the "organism" larger, bacteria and most of the microorganisms in the soil use these as "highways" allowing physical travel.

Redhawk
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Tim Kivi wrote:Well I planted my apple tree next to the big stump. I should take a picture for the future to show how it turns out.



This is a great idea, I would love to see pictures of how it is doing over a period of time.
If you do this, it will possibly give physical clues to if or when its roots intertwine with the stump roots and if those roots are still living, they may knit, which should have your new tree show a burst in vigor.
It would be a great documentation that might even be a proof of that theory.

Redhawk
 
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