Ruth Stout , here I come

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George Shirley wrote:

I have one of those full face things , I wear it when I ride the motorcycle in subfreezing temps . It's up to 26? here , predictred high of 32? but I don't think it'll make that up here in The Holler . And there's a 90% chance for 1-3" of snow tonight ... Fruit trees - mine have been in the ground for 1 and 2 years , they aren't doing so well. Suggestions for a fertilizer that's eco-friendly ? These have never had anything but a little fish emulsion last summer , and I'd like to see them grow more , they haven't gottan any bigger since they were planted . -- Snag
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On 1/19/2016 9:28 AM, Terry Coombs wrote:

had to dig holes in the gumbo clay and I'm afraid we didn't dig the holes wide enough or deep enough. The trees are growing very slowly but are still producing a decent crop of fruit. We usually add a little composted cow manure every few months and that helps.
At our former home we had very deep loam soil from eons of tree leaves falling on what had, a long time ago, been a sand dune (think ancient bottom of the Gulf of Mexico). Fruit trees shot up like they were on steroids there. I miss that soil and am willing to bet that under that five feet of clay in the back there is another ancient sea bed that would have done the job. Albeit that the clay was laid down to keep us from having to pay for gubmint flood insurance.
I'm thinking of devising something that I could drive down around the trees to penetrate the clay some more and then add fertilizer of some sort to help the roots spread wider and deeper.
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George Shirley wrote:

what kind of fruit trees? are they on grafted rootstock? how were they planted? how much light do they get? how much water? soil conditions?

i've seen various methods for planting fruit trees in difficult conditions (read Sepp Holzer's works sometime :) ).
once the tree is already in i suppose you could go back and gently dig down close to the tree to find the roots and then trench outwards through the clay and then fill that trench in with better quality soil. (it would look like an asterisk or the spokes of a wheel). the roots will follow that trench outwards. you'll have to keep topping it off as the organic material decays, but it should help as long as the slope is not towards the tree (it should be level -- clay will eventually soak up any extra water in there).
in the future the much easier method is to just make a pile of the best soil you can including plenty of good organic materials and plant into that without doing much digging. the tree will do much better and you can keep adding organic materials around the tree as the pile breaks down. no trenching or digging needed. especially in a small area where you're putting in miniature trees. this way you avoid water logging issues too and the tree roots will eventually find their way down into the clay as needed (via worm holes :) ).
songbird
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Terry Coombs wrote: ...

it can take a few years for them to get going. worm castings, horse poo, rabbit poo, dead fish, plenty of organic materials (but not right up against the tree trunks).
i already asked these questions in the other reply, but describing the location, what type of plants, how much light and moisture they get, if they are mulched (and with what), etc. is helpful.
songbird
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If your trees are being shaded by the forest (I think you are in a hole in the forest around your house), harvest some more firewood - light makes the biggest difference. But, 1-2 years is a short time in the life of a tree (the best time to plant one is 20 years ago, the second best time is now.)
As for bad soil, with trees I think the best approach is to leave it be when planting - the tree deals with what *is* and grows through it, where a tree in a hole of improved soil in the midst of bad soil is more prone to be potbound and unwilling to poke its roots out. For much the same reason I think a smaller/younger new tree is better than an older one to transplant in a difficult location. While almost everybody would love to be on the loamy gravel, plenty of trees manage just fine on less pleasant soils. Improve it from the top...
Build a ring of compost at the dripline - that's where most of the feeder roots are. Potholing compost/worm fodder (dig postholes, not too close to each other, and fill with compost/compostables) can help get things down more, but it's more work and the worms will do that eventually from stuff on top. But if you want to feel more active about it, go to. As the tree manages to grow, keep the ring at the dripline (ie, moving out.) This will also naturally keep your pile from being built-up near the trunk, which is problematic for several reasons and to be avoided. If you avoid anything too hot you can simply build a pile right there, or you can start it in another location and move it to the trees after it's cooked a few months. Shredded leaves are a good base for whatever else you are putting there - they will break down to leaf mold eventually and will moderate runoff/leachate from more active compost above - don't mix them in, just layer them under, and when you stop turning (if you turn at all) over.
Do not add fresh material when it might induce a growth spurt going into winter. After things are fully dormant you can pile it on, but from roughly August (northern hemisphere) until then you should hold any collected materials in a pile _not_ around the trees - but do keep collecting as much as you can lay your hands on, or have dropped off by the dump-truck load. Manure, spoiled hay, mushroom compost, clean woodash, apple pomace, lawn clippings, etc.
--
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Derald wrote:

yeah...
Derald you do have to recognize that the OP is dealing with sloped areas and that's always a challenge when one combines that with clay and the potential for heavy rains. surface mulching (whether you call it lasagna gardening or whatever else) is going to be an important part of any gardening in such an area until it gets covered again with vegetation.
terracing and soaking in rains can only go so far too without it being a potential hazard (soak in too much water and you end up having the entire hillside slip).

hmm, while i don't practive no-till in all of the gardens here those gardens which are not tilled are those that are very productive vs. how much effort i have to expend on them.
i practice minimal soil disturbance methods in 80-90% of the veggie garden area and the rest gets moved by shovel so it isn't shredded.
depends a lot too upon what i have extra to bury too as i'd rather stash extra organic materials underground where the worms can get at them.
minimal till, i'm not into doing things just because - i am into doing things which improve the soil the most and so far i'm liking how it is going with what i'm doing and how little effort i actually have to expend for most of the gardens.
as i keep consolidating gardens it has made it a lot easier to work in them. dedicated pathways, the less of those i have the better. if you must have them use organic mulching materials and then at least you can come through later and turn it all under and plant it.

heh, well as i've found out here they don't work well in clay when it is either too wet or too dry and destroy the creatures in the soil that i most want to encourage so i've not done it since. the worms are much happier now (yes i take a poll :) ).
the other trouble we had with them is that for the small garden plots we had they made more of a mess than a help.
the money spent on the tillers (two, several hundred each) could easily have financed my seed, tool and hose buys for the next 10 - 20 years.

crop rotation is how i make my amending efforts go as far as possible. very efficient.
songbird
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gardening tool is my dad's Derald-powered push plow. As you know, by "tilling" (as distinct from "rototilling"), I mean using hands, four-tined spading fork, or shovel, pretty much in that order of priority/frequency. Hands and/or fork blend in a pretty standard blend of amendments plus a healthy dose of alfalfa and a fair share of whatever compost may be available along with whatever volume of legendary horse dung looks "right". Sometimes, though, I just push back the mulch and plant, just like Ruth Stout.     Harvesting compost from my "everbearing" compost pile and digging in the garden with hands are, respectively, my two favorite gardening activities. The shovel gets used, maybe once each year to loosen the soil deeper than the reach of the fork and every two-three years to dig deeply enough to cut invasive tree roots that the fork won't handle. As you observe, tools, tillers, and such put earthworms and insects on which I depend heavily to maintain the garden's health at risk. Hell, no: I AM NOT OBSESSIVE with this damned gardening jones, it's just a phase....:-)
--
Derald

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Derald wrote:

it was done long before i moved back here, and both were destroyed along with other equipment before my time. now all that extra dead metal and wasted space hogging stuff is gone and we're down to one large weedwhacker which i've not needed to use since 2006, the lawn mower and the hedge trimmers (which are useful for chopping back the green manure patch).
there are some gardens here that i can do some work in without having to use a shovel, but other than those most of the rest of the gardens would break your hands if you tried to stick your fingers in them. they are getting better as i keep putting good organic stuff in them and the worms do their magic, but like you said before it takes time.

it's a good phase IMO. :) respect for the earth is something so many people either don't care about or they just have no connection to it at all. go outside? what's that? bugs? eww! etc. *sigh*
the other thing that gets me cranky is to watch the farmers around me turn their fields into dead subsoil. when i was a kid, when the farmers would plow the birds would follow along behind so they could get the bugs and the worms - now when they plow you don't see the birds out there much at all. wish i could afford to buy them all out around us and do a community farm and gardens space, but i don't have that kind of $$$.
songbird
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