Preparing Your Soil for Tree Planting

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If you haven’t guessed by now, we’re all about empowering our clients and readers alike with tree care resources (a rising tide floats all ships as they say!). In fact, we have found that our clients that are most knowledgable about tree care tend to get the most out of their experience working with us!

The following are instructions on how to properly prepare your soil for tree planting taken from The Biodynamic Orchard Book – a wonderful resource for planting fruit trees, berries and shrub! Read on and enjoy…

The treatment of fruit trees, berries and shrubs should be undertaken with the aim of producing healthy plants and fruits, while avoiding the use of poisoning sprays. To make it possible to product the desired results without insecticides to pesticide sprays depends on many factors, not all under the control of the grower. Therefore we will discuss some of the issues the grower will encounter and some practical measures to be undertaken in the two phases of the work: the conversion period and the final goal. The grower needs to have patience and perseverance and should not expect an orchard free of pests immediately in the first or second year of the conversion phase.

The biology of trees, berries and shrubs – that is, of all wood-developing perennial plants – is entirely different from that of an annual or biennial plant. While the annual seeks tis nutrients in the surface layer of the soil, the tree grows two root systems – one with feeder roots near the surface, the other sending mechanically supporting and feeder roots into the deeper layers of the subsoil.

When planting trees or reclaiming older stands, both layers of the soil need attention. The preparation of an orchard begins, therefore with the selection and pre-treatment of a suitable field.

Preparation of the Soil for Tree Planting

If a field has never been cultivated, it has a natural structure: the humans gradually becomes less as the depth increases. Natural strata such as hardpan or clay pan or podzol layers may, however, exist. If the field was previously under cultivation there will also be the hardpans and plow soles resulting from this. Now there is noting a tree dislikes more than a hardline and wet feet, that is, standing moisture in the root area, which hinders the even development of spreading root system. Each disturbance of the root system is reflect in the growth of the tree, specifically of the crown. The results can include abnormal growth patterns, canker, bleeding and gumming, and susceptibility to pests.

The soil should be carefully prepared by deep subsoiling in order to break the hardpan and establish water and air circulation. A plan root absorbs and needs oxygen for its health; it absorbs the same amount of oxygen as its own root value every day. Poor drainage should be tackled at once. Ay measure which helps establish a crumbly soil structure is an advantage. An orchard field should also be well leveled and graded; this facilitates later cultivation, mulching and irrigation.

In the first year of an orchard, subsoiling, plowing, disking and grading should be done prior to any planting. A nourishing cover crop such as rye or soya beans may be grown and sided under after well-rotted manure or compost has been spread. The more humus a soil contains, the better it is for fruit trees Where manure amor compost has been well worked into the soil, roots will develop faster. Once the trees are established, it is difficult to work in the depths of the soil’ this has to be done first. Here we can already see some of the issues involved in reclaiming an older orchard – situations may. exist with regard to hardpan and generally unfavorable structure, which cannot be overcome. No fertilizer or spray applied on can overcome the circulatory disturbance of a tree who’s root is stopped by a hardpan or standing moisture.

In shallow soils and soils with high groundwater level, it makes little sense to select high stemmed or other trees which require a deep-growing root: choose dwarf types instead.

If you’re using biodynamic method, you will have already treated the disked-in manure and compost with preparations 502 and 507 or the biodynamic compost starter. This adds already digested organic matter and humus. Trees don’t like raw manure or raw organic matter. In woods, the raw organic matter remains on the surface; only leaf mold humus is in touch with the roots. The process of humification in woods is slow but the grower has, for practical reasons, to speed it up. When the cultivation begins, the soil should be pre-treated with biodynamic field spray or preparation 5500 in order to stimulate humus formation and to activate the availability of the minerals and to encourage the fixation of nitrogen. Let us assume this has all been done correctly. Then after a year of preparatory treatment, the field is ready for the planting of trees. If these things have not been done correctly, then the conditions may already have been created for many biological causes of diseases, pets and crop failure.

If you’ve already planed the seedling trees, you still have a chance to catch up by thorough interrow cultivation, going as close to trees as possible without hurting the roots.

An interesting disease phenomenon was observed in Germany some years ago. Some arable fields with low productivity which, for many years, had been cultivated for crops, had been forested. Then after thirty years, the fir trees began to die off. The roots, it was found, had grown into the blow sole and other strata which had been affected by the previous cultivation.

When preparing a tree planting bed, make sure that even green manuring is well decomposed. An important question is, should the planting hole be large and deep or narrow? We are inclined to suggest a narrow hole just deep enough to hold the tree and its initial root development. The reason against large holes Is that there is a greater amount of settling and loose soil so that the tree tends to shake loose and rattle in the hole. Also, in a large hole with looser soil, the tree may grow fast at the start. Then when the roots reach the native soil they will stop or grow very slowly causing circulatory disturbances in the rising sap. Cankerous growth, gum bleeding and undernourishment are the consequences. We prefer a slower but steadier growth from the beginning. The tree needs a firm, well developed root system. It’s better in the long run to have the first crop a year later and have a healthy tree.

Fill the planting hole with a mixture of soil and very well rotted, earthy compost. Be sure that the soil is tightly pressed around the tree so that it doesn’t wobble.

Finally, if you find yourself guessing about how to properly prepare your soil, let one of our tree service specialists help you out. Contact us HERE for a complimentary estimate!

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