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planting on raised ground

Posted by Chad Armentrout 
planting on raised ground
March 26, 2018 02:25AM
I have a 250 tree orchard in a river valley. I have a high water table. After losing many trees to drowning, I have decided to use raised beds, for planting my trees. I have used four 3 ft ash logs as the border for the raised bed. My plan is to lay the roots of the tree on the ground and cover with topsoil. The logs will keep the soil from washing away and the roots will naturally embed themselves into the ground. I have decided this as a last resort for the wettest parts of the orchard, where the traditional tree hole has failed.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/26/2018 03:12AM by Chad Armentrout.
Re: planting on raised ground
March 26, 2018 03:06AM
I have posted an image of raised bed in photo bucket under grow organic apples.
Re: planting on raised ground
March 26, 2018 04:12AM
what is the thickness of the logs?

Brampton Lake Orchards

Zone 4a Upper Michigan
Re: planting on raised ground
March 26, 2018 04:46AM
I made 55 boxes from dead ash trees on my land. Most of the logs are 8 inches and greater.


Stillwater Valley Orchard and Apiary
Zone 6
Southwest Ohio
Re: planting on raised ground
March 26, 2018 08:27PM
not to rain on your parade, but 8" isn't very much height. spreading out the roots in an 8" plot of soil probably isn't going to do the trees much good. The roots will need to go much deeper than that?

Pat

Brampton Lake Orchards

Zone 4a Upper Michigan
Re: planting on raised ground
March 26, 2018 10:01PM
The roots will lay on top of the ground inside the box. Top soil and mulch will be placed on top of roots. The roots will root into the soil and do what roots do without a hole. The roots will more than likely go underneath the logs in their pursuit of nourishment. The only purpose of logs is so the soil will not wash away in the beginning before roots hold it together. The logs will also provide many biological inputs as well. This method is well documented throughout the internet. Some say their trees do better with this method rather than sitting in a hole. Its not conventional, but conventional destroyed many of my trees. Just trying a different way. I will document succsess or failure throughout growing season. Due to high water table and heavy clay soil the main thing I want to accomplish is that the crown of the tree is not sitting in wet cold clay in anaerobic conditions. Hopefully, having the crown at soil level when parts of the orchard are less than ideal, will allow me to have healthy trees, rather than dead ones. Have given it more thought, I have also decided that I will use a broad fork to open the soil where I will place the tree roots at soil level. This should help the rooting of the tree significantly.

Chad Armentrout
Stillwater Valley Orchard and Apiary
Zone 6
Southwest Ohio



Edited 7 time(s). Last edit at 03/26/2018 10:45PM by Chad Armentrout.
Re: planting on raised ground
March 30, 2018 11:23PM
Chad, I must applaud you for trying a method that is not a very common situation as most people are on high ground. I also must applaud you because an orchard of 250 trees is a huge undertaking especially if they are in raised beds. Where I live here in Wisconsin, water surrounds my land. We live in a river bottom so everything has a high water level and mostly every spring, we get water in our basement (old farmhouse). The river is maybe 300ft away and the bayou (yes a bayou in Wisconsin is pretty common as it is an old river channel) is maybe 1,000 ft away. The only raised land is where the house/barn stands and a couple acres of land. All of my apple trees are on high ground but I will be planting some in some soil that is not too dry to be fair. The soil is a clay like soil but when I tested the soil this past summer I found I had a silty loam which is prime for agricultural crops. Anyways, I think your idea is a great one. There is nothing much else a person like us can do about a high water level for planting trees at least. I've been trying to stay away from drought resistant rootstock. Dwarf rootstock may be even better as the roots don't go down as deep as a standard would. Something to think about.
Re: planting on raised ground
April 02, 2018 03:50PM
Thank you, Henry, for the words of encouragement concerning the raised bed planting. Yes, high water tables, and clay can be challenging. All considered, I would rather have too much water, rather than none. Good idea trying to stay away from drought resistant root stock. All my rootstock is MM111. Probably not the best for high water table. I planted two Black Oxford trees two days ago with this raised bed method and I felt good about the method. I believe the trees will thrive in this environment. They have bottom land soil, plenty of sunshine and water. The key is to get the crown out of standing water that sits around for too long. The rest of this years trees are coming soon from Trees of Antiquity. I anticipate their arrival and planting them in this method. I will keep posting on methods efficacy.
Re: planting on raised ground
March 15, 2021 12:33AM
Three years on, Chad, how did the raised beds with 8in logs turn out?

Old 99 Farm and permaculture site
Dundas ON 5b
Re: planting on raised ground
March 28, 2021 03:40PM
We’re trying a “raised row” approach that I thought might be an appropriate addition to this thread, please let me know if if it fits better elsewhere.

I got interested in hugelkultur (raised beds built with dirt over rotten logs,) from a friend, then read Sep Holzer and Mark Shepard’s books and got interested in key line contouring as well. After running across a 1930s soil conservation guide I was sold on these ideas, and we planted about 50 apples on berms we created by backfurrowing with a 2 bottom plow, then grading with a blade. The berms are about 8 feet wide, and are about 18” tall as viewed perpendicular to the slope, (this gives the uphill trench 8-10” of depth in most places- if I had bigger equipment I probably would have made them both wider and taller.

In our case, the goal is water retention, but I understand that hugelkultur has a moderating effect on wet ground as well. We’re on quite a slope, don’t want to irrigate, and want to do what we can to prevent soil loss. We laid out our rows following the contours with a borrowed transit, and some help from the county conservation agent- in this area they are very active in helping farmers with contour farming, and I can still see grass-backed swales that were built 80 plus years ago.

What we’ve seen so far. In our first year we had some problems with washouts, but it seems like now that our ground cover is established, our repairs are holding. I made the mistake of planting most of the trees the first year in the uphill “ditch” and lost a few to root rot-the swales sure do hold water! I have since switched to planting just uphill of the “ridge” of the berms, reasoning that the roots will go where they feel comfortable. I also wish I had had a better eye for water before we began, an uphill fence line and resulting berm already direct a lot of water to one end of our orchard and have left us a pretty wet road we have to avoid while doing our spring work. My hope is that as the trees grow they will be able to moderate these times of excess by taking up the extra water the way a forest handles rain. Apart from the mortalities the first year, the trees seem to be doing great, (to my amateur eye.)

This year we begin contouring the second half, which has less topsoil and is rocky to boot. We’re planning on tilling in aged wood chips to help feed the mycelial network, (we did this on two of the last four rows,) but I also try and imagine ways to get more woody stuff below ground to better riff off the hugel ideas and Phillips mycorrhizae musings- back furrow over slab wood? Lay out or dig in spent mushroom logs near each tree hole? Also, I still have some questions about the optimal placement of the trees in the berm, and would be happy for advice, but will likely continue as I have been if I don’t hear otherwise. I worry some about the roots hanging out in the “easy” topsoil rich berms and not spreading out enough to provide the strength the trees will need in a high wind, or will they seek out the deeper minerals and build some stability
. I will also happily share how these experiments seem to be shaking out, and am happy to tweak our plans based on more experienced advice.

SW Wisconsin zone 5a/4b
Homestead/community orchard
2ish acres with half planted in 2018-2019 with heritage apples, alternating b118, antonovka, and seedling roots with m7
Beginning the other half 2021 planned for balance of plums, cherries, apricot, peach, pears, etc...
SE slope, trees are planted in contoured berms made by backfurrowing with 1956 Allis Chalmers D14
Using native prairie mix for ground cover over declining alfalfa field



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/29/2021 02:27AM by Prairie Sundance.
Re: planting on raised ground
March 28, 2021 04:26PM
Unless you are planting the smallest of rootstock, these options can be tricky. Most of the size reduction stocks are going to have roots extending 3 foot minimum. Take a look at the historical studies at East Malling for what I am talking about. If raised beds are over a stubborn clay or compacted soil it will be problematic but not as much an issue as continuous ledge or a high water table. It is likely that trees will do well in any raised bed for several years, provided there is no great cold damage to the heightened area, but they will likely begin to flounder and tip. So the issue will be largely one of anchorage not necessarily tree health. Something to keep in mind when planning your acreage is to carefully select the best plant for the best location. In my wetter areas for instance, I do create raised areas for bush fruits but wouldn't dream of sticking a tree out there (well maybe an alder). Same goes for ledge. I would maybe throw a bud -9 in a shallow area and see what happens. I have seen m-7's on up tip radically over ledge and water tables 3 feet below. I encourage experimenting, but be cautious with big plantings, especially considering that real problems take years to manifest.
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