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Planting trees into rocky soil  RSS feed

 
Posts: 231
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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I surveyed out out 5 sites today (before it started raining) for bare root seedlings.  Four were easy, middle of 40 year old fescue pasture.  Fifth one is near the top of our property, on a transition from a north slope for most of the land, and an east slope.  No matter where (within a few feet) I went to place the marker, I started hitting rock very soon.

Like elsewhere, this will have sod right at the surface, and I am getting good with the pick/mattock at de-sodding ground.  I will guess the pick end is what I need to produce a hole.  And I probably need to make at least one auxilliary hole, so that I can replace some of the rock from the main hole, with something that approximates soil.

I spent a while looking, and it seems that you can find great trees in rocky soil, even oaks.  But, nobody was offering advice on how to plant one.

Ideas? 
 
garden master
Posts: 891
Location: SW Missouri
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I know a guy who dug holes for all his trees with a big heavy digging bar (like a giant chisel.) You slam it down into the rock repeatedly, like a jackhammer kind of, but by hand. Jackhammer might be easier :) His fruit trees are doing well. He back-filled the holes with good soil. He is very strong, and a bit of a maniac. I think I'd have gone for a jackhammer, personally.
 
Gordon Haverland
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Thanks Pearl, that is wonderful news (for me)!

I have a 5 foot bar with a point at one end and a "chisel" at the other.  I used to teach weigh-lifting, so I probably qualify as strong enough (I learned weighting from rehab from soccer injuries).

This guy you knew, why did he backfill with good soil?   Or if you  meant he amended his soil, what did he amend with?

My thinking is that this east slope region will eventually need to be terraced.  But that is a "not this year" project.
 
garden master
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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I have few rocks, but this thread may help.

https://permies.com/t/48718/plant-tree-solid-rock
 
Gordon Haverland
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I would have thought a hammer (say a 3-5 pound hammer with a rounded face) would have made a better cavity than an electric tool would.  But to drill the holes in the cavity, an electric drill is probably best.  It would have been nice to see pictures of the planted trees a year or so afterwards.

I sure hope I don't need to go to that trouble with my rock problem.
 
Pearl Sutton
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I think, and I may be wrong, his idea was to make a big enough hole that it was sort of a pot for the trees, so they had enough strength to root into the rock as they got bigger. His land is rock, with about 6 inches of dirt on top. He made good sized holes (several feet across,) then got a load of dirt dumped and put it in them. At 2 years out from planting they were doing well, that's the last data point I heard.
 
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Gordon,

Certain trees don't need soil to grow (most of the conifers can be found growing out of what looks like solid rock in many places in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, likewise in the Rockies.

What is needed for an already growing tree is a big enough pocket for the root ball to get growing and fissures (fractured rock) for the roots to grow into, like any tree, shrub or bush planting you need a hole at least twice the diameter of the root ball to get the tree established.
On our land we have many places with bed rock within just a few inches of the surface and I've planted Mulberry trees in a few of these, those trees started out as whips (one year old trees that are mostly just a stick with roots) and are now 7 inches in diameter and giving off lots of fruit.
To plant in these conditions I use a Hammer Drill with a chisel point (my hammer drill is a "professional demolition model"), it takes me about a half hour to break up enough of the bed rock to make a good planting hole, clean it out and then create fractures all over the bottom and sides of the hole.
Next I mix 3 parts soil from my land with one part compost, one part rotting wood chips and dust and one part potting soil to do the planting with.
I try to make my holes deep enough that I can have about 4 inches of this soil mix under the root ball (I make a cone of soil for bare root trees to sit on) I tease out some of the roots then set the tree and back fill.
Next comes watering in with a root stimulant mixed with water, this settles the soil and I  make sure I soak the fill a minimum of three times at planting.
I water the new tree once a day for the next 5 days, this lets water get down into the newly fractured bed rock so the roots will follow that water as they grow over time.

From that point on it is just a matter of watching for leaf wilt on the trees for the first couple of years.
After that, you probably will find that you don't need to water unless you go about a month between rain events.

Redhawk

 
steward
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This is one of my favorites. At a pull out on interstate 80 ,high elevation, windy, rocky and yet it grows.

Tree in the Rock , Wyoming
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Gordon Haverland wrote:I would have thought a hammer (say a 3-5 pound hammer with a rounded face) would have made a better cavity than an electric tool would.  But to drill the holes in the cavity, an electric drill is probably best.  It would have been nice to see pictures of the planted trees a year or so afterwards.

I sure hope I don't need to go to that trouble with my rock problem.



Using a hammer such as you describe above can be a very dangerous thing to do, chips will fly at the speed of a bullet and penetrate even 4 oz. leather (ask me how I know), face shields have been cracked from such shards coming off sledge hammers.
The hammer drill is a smaller version of a jackhammer so it is lighter in hand and the pounding action penetrates rather than shattering as it goes through rock.
Using sledge type hammers also has the hardened head metal to be thought about, a piece of that shearing on a blow could be considered shrapnel and should it hit a person in the wrong place, death can occur.

If you want to use a hammer, be sure to use it on a star drill, that way you will limit the possibility of severe injury from flying rock chips and metal chips.
Do be sure to have a file with you so when the head of the drill mushrooms you can redress the head and prevent a metal chip coming from the drill shaft.

Redhawk
 
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