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bolwerk's avatar

What treatments should be appled to an apple tree planted in a ultisols environment?

Asked by bolwerk (10305points) May 10th, 2014

I planted a Jonathan apple tree on some family property where heavy red clay soil (Ultisols) is abundant and unavoidable. The idea is to eventually make hard cider.

I dug a pretty deep pit, mostly extracting red-brown soil. I mixed some of the soil with a little hay, a layer of worm-rich composted soil closer to the root system (mainly composted leaves and horse shit), and at the deepest point in the pit (close to 4’) I scattered a some fresh horse shit because that was a convenient place to be rid of it. The idea behind the hay and manure was in part about encouraging drainage, though the composted soil seems quite soft.

I was wondering if any other treatments are suggested. Note that I am hoping to keep this tree as organic as possible, so I’m fine with not adding anything if it’s not necessary.

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6 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I’m curious to see how the tree does. Apple trees hate heavy clay. I have a hardpan layer at 14 or so inches. If I want anything to do well I have to build up a mound of good topsoil about 18 inches high so the tree gets good drainage.

gailcalled's avatar

I am equally curious.. The real work is already done once you have prepared and enriched the soil and planted the tree. We have the same clay and hardpan here as @Adirondackwannabe does and prep is always the key. The soil must be friable so that it drains and water does not pool and rot the roots.

i would do better by opening a pottery factory, but I continue to spend hundreds of dollars on soil improvements and am constantling lugging compost around (or, these days, paying someone to lug it around).

My sister has apple, peach, plum, pear and cherry trees but she planned and prepped her large garden when she built the house. The plantings were the final step.

Four feet deep sounds pretty good…what’s the width of the hole.? Roots run both vertically and horizontally.

Coloma's avatar

There are many apple trees in my area and we have clay soil as well…hmmm…interesting. I will have to investigate more. The Sierra Nevada foothills here in Northern CA. are loaded with red clay and rocky soil, but vineyards and orchards abound. Off to do some research.

bolwerk's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe: well, I hope this doesn’t qualify as “heavy” then. The soil looks kind of like this. It’s pretty manageable with a shovel and pick axe. Other trees actually manage to grow quite high nearby, but the only other apple tree that ever existed in the vicinity grew pretty big and…well, it seems it has been dead for years. Though it wasn’t well-tended and ended up competing with brush. :(

Maybe I will had additional composted soil above the pit tomorrow.

@gailcalled: I’d say it was 3.5’ deep (maybe 4’) and about 3.5’ in diameter. It was sort of near the top of a natural hilly incline. Part of the reason I selected this summer to do it is we’re expecting significant rain this season. I’d be pleased to have a reasonably stout tree with a good yield. I mixed the ultisols with some the composted soil, but probably replaced about half the ultisols I dug out.

@Coloma: it’s a little rocky too.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@bolwerk Don’t get dirt or mulch against the stem of the tree above the soil line. But that soil looks like it has decent structure. Have you ever done a perk test?

bolwerk's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe: I haven’t. And no, I haven’t done a perk test.

That soil (the reddish layer) may be more saturated than usual after some heavy rains this past month.

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