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Author Topic: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?  (Read 642 times)

Triloba Tracker

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I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« on: August 02, 2018, 08:42:57 PM »
Ive just come to the realization that I have basically been drowning my newly planted trees by surrounding them with excessively deep woodchip mulch. Clay soil is compounding the problem.
The soil around the trees seems rather like mud.

To remedy this, I have cleared away the mulch in a 2 foot diameter around the tree to temporarily expose the soil to speed drying.

What else can I do, if anything?

Would spading around the tree help/hurt?
What about working up the very top layer of soil 1-2 inches to increase surface area for evaporation?

My plan was to eventually add a much thinner layer of mulch back once moisture levels seem more normal.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2018, 08:52:16 AM by Triloba Tracker »

pineislander

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2018, 05:21:24 PM »
If your ground is subject to excess water during flooding it might be a good idea to plant new trees on ridges. To dry out what you have I'd remove mulch out double the drip line or maybe a 4 ft diameter. In August heat you should dry out pretty quick.

FrankDrebinOfFruits

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2018, 05:49:18 PM »
Is the major issue the ground slope under the woodchips? Excess water should still flow off the property if the property has proper drainage. How big an area are we talking?

If you want to breakdown the woodchips faster, use a diluted urea to help it breakdown.

If I had full clay soil, I would till in something to help with the absorption, since a lack of absorption would also slow growth.  Calcium carbonate or a lot of sand or something else to provide better drainage, small pea rock, etc. Starting with proper drainage is important though, otherwise ponding will always occur.  I have seen another picture of a guy that used an excavator and carved a checkerboard pattern to help reconstruct the soil, that was extreme though.

Triloba Tracker

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2018, 06:01:25 PM »
Thanks guys
The wet area is maybe 200-300 square feet.
The whole spot is maybe 600 sq ft.
The entire area does have a nice minor slope to it, so its not that water is ponding.
I think issue is 95% too much mulch, 2% unnecessary irrigation and 3% soil composition.
The mulch also is probably too fine - it was tree trimmer chips but a lot of pine needles mixed in.

Nice hot sunny day today and another tomorrow before rain in the forecast, so I have removed all mulch in about 2 foot radius and beyond that I removed all but 1-2 inches.
The trees are very small so the drip line is practically nothing.

I did some light spading too - I hope I didnt damage roots. I did see some small  roots which is encouraging that trees are getting established.

My goal is to re mulch with chunkier wood chips to only 2-3 inches.

Triloba Tracker

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2018, 06:34:01 PM »
Oh - and the reason the whole area is not affected is that this section was mulched at a different time and with different load of wood chips.
I had this strange notion these chips would compact more or break down faster so I piled it higher. This was all done a year before planting.
Hindsight 20/20 and all that....
« Last Edit: August 03, 2018, 11:12:48 PM by Triloba Tracker »

pineislander

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2018, 07:35:19 PM »
The mulch also is probably too fine - it was tree trimmer chips but a lot of pine needles mixed in.

Sounds right. In Tennessee your mulch needs are mainly weed control and soil building. If you have irrigation it will take very little most years and soil building is long term & can continue for years and forever.

KarenRei

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2018, 11:28:53 PM »
The standard solution to draining swamps is... drains.  Trench, gravel filled, with a perforated PVC pipe at the bottom.   :)



If you go this route, don't be silly... rent a trencher rather than digging by hand.  Also, might not be a bad idea to coat the pipe in copper hydroxide paint, if you can be bothered to, to discourage roots from growing into it.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2018, 08:44:11 AM by KarenRei »
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Mango Stein

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2018, 11:42:45 PM »
Drain the swamp and Loch her up!
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spaugh

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2018, 11:58:44 PM »

I think issue is 95% too much mulch, 2% unnecessary irrigation and 3% soil composition.

That doesnt really sound right.  It sounds like the soil is the main problem as its not draining well and its constantly wet because it rains a lot there or you are over watering.

You need the mulch to help fix the clay soil.  The worms will help move it down hopefully but clay is like a sponge.  Its not going to be easy to fix that especially if theres already plants there.
Brad Spaugh

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2018, 09:53:32 AM »

I think issue is 95% too much mulch, 2% unnecessary irrigation and 3% soil composition.

That doesnt really sound right.  It sounds like the soil is the main problem as its not draining well and its constantly wet because it rains a lot there or you are over watering.

You need the mulch to help fix the clay soil.  The worms will help move it down hopefully but clay is like a sponge.  Its not going to be easy to fix that especially if theres already plants there.

I see what youre saying. The only other consideration is that 60% of the orchard  area seems fine, same soil. Though this wet section is the lower part of the slope but its not the bottom or a basin of any kind.
Yes, plants already there so not a lot of options.
I will top dress with some organic matter and will replace the mulch but not as deep.
Well see. Maybe this spot is doomed unless I divert some water.

spaugh

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2018, 10:54:42 AM »
What kinds of trees are in the wet area?  Some things dont even really mind it.  In central california a lot of the soil is geavy clay and they do floor irrigation and things grow just fine.
Brad Spaugh

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2018, 11:05:39 AM »
What kinds of trees are in the wet area?  Some things dont even really mind it.  In central california a lot of the soil is geavy clay and they do floor irrigation and things grow just fine.

Right - the reason I suspected a problem is I was seeing leaf issues - black spots on undersides followed by just leaf death from the lowest leaves upward.
These are Asimina triloba, which are native to Tennessee. In the wild they often grow near creeks and rivers, so generally pretty water loving. I just think they couldnt breathe in my conditions.

spaugh

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2018, 11:15:06 AM »
Sorry for my spelling errors there.  That was supposed to say heavy clay and flood irrigation.

Paw paws, I dont know much about.  They had a lot of wild paw paws on my grandparents farm in Illinois though.  They all grew along the creek like you said.

Brad Spaugh

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2018, 06:38:39 PM »
Too much organic matter, when wet, can go into poisonous fermentation by anaerobic bacteria--- water rot, which is stinky.  Is your stuff stinky?

I sometimes see mangos planted in pure decomposed mulch--- very bad idea--- sick, defoliating tree, perpetually wobbly roots in muddy soil.
Har

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2018, 07:16:30 PM »
Too much organic matter, when wet, can go into poisonous fermentation by anaerobic bacteria--- water rot, which is stinky.  Is your stuff stinky?

I sometimes see mangos planted in pure decomposed mulch--- very bad idea--- sick, defoliating tree, perpetually wobbly roots in muddy soil.

Thanks Har. Yes, I hear ya. No, no foul smells that I detected and I was looking out for that.

Really didnt do much prep to the soil. I put thin layer of aged cow manure under the mulch and it lay fallow for about a year before planting. I did not amend the backfill when planting. Soil was reasonably friable it seemed to me - were not talking red clay or something.
I hope they will pull thru. 2 full hot days with full sun on the exposed soil now, but just below surface still wet. Mind you, Im not talking soupy  ;)

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #15 on: August 04, 2018, 07:48:53 PM »
This just occurred to me - if the soil is too wet (temporarily, hopefully) such that root function is impaired, could it be that the leaves are effectively cooking due to inhibited water movement/transpiration? the older leaves do look like they are burning. A couple of the trees are pushing new leaves while others are doing nothing.

If this hypothesis is correct, I could shade them - would this help?

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #16 on: August 06, 2018, 01:05:41 PM »
Shameless one-time bump

Any opinions on the above?

pineislander

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #17 on: August 06, 2018, 06:22:08 PM »
One thing you could do to determine the actual soil water conditions is to take a post hole digger in the plot and dig down as deep as you can. If you really want to go down (hand powered) auger type hole diggers are available which you can add extension pipes onto.
I once dug a hole nearly 15 feet deep using such a contraption and a lot of persistence. I found that what appeared to be clay changed to a gravel layer with flowing water which could have been used as a hand-dug well. It was near a creek.

The purpose of this would be to determine the actual soil profile horizons and moisture status of the soil. You may find a rock ledge or high water table you didn't know about. I recall a cartoon in a farm magazine showing a row of corn with a few plants distinctly stunted and a farmer scratching his head in bewilderment. In the next frame you could see the soil profile cut away and there was a huge boulder in the middle of the field just under the stunted corn.

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Re: I Turned My Orchard Into a Swamp - now what?
« Reply #18 on: August 06, 2018, 08:21:48 PM »
Chlorosis and drying leaves are a sign that the roots are not getting oxygen in standing water. I don't think shading the tree is going to help. Two things can be done. Installing a sump pump in ground to  pump the excess water (mabye 1-1.5ft of water below the ground level) or a French draining system. Considerations have to be made to see if either is viable (co$t, slope, water easement etc).
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