Author Topic: Prepping woody beds for tree planting  (Read 2759 times)

Offline Ian-FW

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Prepping woody beds for tree planting
« on: March 29, 2013, 09:09:58 AM »
So, I want to get an orchard going to have some long-term free fruit - but I'm up in the high desert, at 6000 feet elevation and with about 11 inches/year of precipitation. So preparation and planning are essential. I have two apple trees that seem to be doing fairly well (aside from being exuberantly pruned by some elk last spring) and are going into their second full year, so I'm pretty sure this plan isn't totally hopeless.

The next batch of trees will be arriving in a couple weeks, and I've been getting things ready for them. In addition to a really thick layer of mulch, I'm prepping an individual woody bed for each tree. First I dug a hole roughly 3x3x3 feet for each tree (using a backhoe). Then each hole was filled with a big pile of wood. Mostly juniper - because that's what is available here - but also some scrap pine from pallets (no plywood, though). I tried to include as much partially rotted stuff as I could get, although there isn't much rotting going on in this climate.




Once the wood was in place, I backfilled each hole with the dirt that had come out, plus some composted straw and horse manure from a neighbor. The soil in most of my holes was pretty decent (more sand than clay, and well drained) but hugely lacking in organic matter - so in addition to the wood each tree has about a half a backhoe bucket of manure mixed into the backfill.




I brought the holes back up to the point that they are about a foot below ground level, and ready for the bare-root saplings. Once the trees arrive, they'll go in and I can finish filling the holes as necessary.



For irrigation, I am putting together a 1/2" water line with T junctions running to each tree, and I'm putting it on a sprinkler timer type of system (haven't gotten the parts for that yet, though). The idea is to plug it in and have it automatically irrigate the whole orchard on a predetermined schedule. I can only spend weekends at the property right now, so this will ensure that the trees don't get neglected. I'm planning on once-weekly deep watering for now, with hopes of weaning them off supplemental water within a couple years.

Each tree will have at least 6 inches of straw or wood chip mulch (this appeared to work wonderfully last year), and will also have individual small swales to collect water. Given that our heaviest average month (not single rainfall event, but whole month) of rainfall is about 1.5 inches, I don't think I need (or would really benefit from) the larger 3' tall sort that Jack talks about.

Anyway, I figured I'd post the plans and photos so folks can see what I'm trying, whether it turns out to be something to copy or an example of what not to do. :) Hopefully in a couple years I'll be posting photos of cherries, pears, cider apples, peaches, and apricots!

Offline Nicodemus

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Re: Prepping woody beds for tree planting
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2013, 06:32:02 AM »
I hope it goes well. I'm very interested to see how these types of beds perform in a climate like yours.

Offline Rutger

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Re: Prepping woody beds for tree planting
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2013, 07:35:49 AM »
I love the old cut up pallet idea. I have a free source, so I will be stealing this idea.

Offline Kreindl

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Re: Prepping woody beds for tree planting
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2013, 07:43:26 PM »
I've been told not to put compost in the holes, only the dirt that came out and a little slow release fertilizer.  I have very sandy soil east of Denver and similar but a bit more rain fall.  I'll be interested to hear how it works for you.   I put in a woody swell that I will be planting into soon.

I gather your roots will benefit from some moisture from the wood.  I do wonder why I've been told not to dig holes deeper than the roots.

Bonnieblue2A

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Re: Prepping woody beds for tree planting
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2013, 10:44:26 AM »
...........  I do wonder why I've been told not to dig holes deeper than the roots.

You want to keep the graft union of the tree approx. 2"-3" above the soil line. Neither do you want to mulch right up against the tree trunk and cover that graft union.

Offline Skunkeye

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Re: Prepping woody beds for tree planting
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2013, 01:56:34 PM »
I love the old cut up pallet idea. I have a free source, so I will be stealing this idea.

Just make sure you get pallets that haven't been chemically treated.  Most newer pallets are just heat-treated to kill insects, but some places fumigate them with methyl bromide.  Most pallets should have a stamp on them somewhere - look for the code "HT" instead of "MB".

I don't know if the methyl bromide would cause problems in a woody bed, but it's used to sterilize soil in some commercial farming operations, so it's probably not something you want buried under your food crops.