Tree planted has air pockets

I have not been having too much luck with planting fruit trees. I seem to be doing something wrong. I end up with air pockets around the roots. Any suggestions?
Thanks
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Davej wrote:

Are these bare-rooted or a solid root-ball? How did you plant them? How do you know there are air pockets?
D
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On Thursday, September 26, 2013 12:02:54 AM, David Hare-Scott wrote:

They are purchased in a plastic pot. I dig an oversized hole, mix in a litt le mulch, make a fairly muddy mess, and then try to get the tree adjusted t o the proper depth. I think I should perhaps try to use a smaller hole, les s water and no mulch. I can detect voids by sticking an iron rod in the gro und around the tree. Thanks.
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It takes time for soil to settle. Water (as appropriate to your local seasons), and the soil will settle into any voids.
Is there an actual problem that you are experiencing with your trees? Or are you just looking for problems while waiting for the next season comes around? (I've done that more than a few times.)
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On Thursday, September 26, 2013 10:12:19 PM, Drew Lawson wrote:

I've had almost every recently planted tree die and I'm looking for the reason.
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Davej wrote:

I doubt air pockets are the problem. Any more information? What trees? What conditions? What climate, soil..............
D
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On September 27, 2013, David Hare-Scott wrote:


Various dwarf fruit trees; cherry, plum, apricot. Soil here is gray clay. S ummers in the Midwest US are very dry but I try to water regularly. Deer ar e often a problem for the trees but when I notice damage I try to wrap them in plastic fencing. Of the last four trees planted only one is still survi ving.
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Davej wrote:

Planting fruit trees in clay has the risk of drowning them. You dig a hole in the clay and fill it with permeable soil/mulch. The problem is that the clay is not permeable and so forms a pond of water which can kill the roots. The solution is to not to dig down but to build up.
Deer are a problem. Without knowing how badly they have trimmed your trees I cannot say what effect that had. Perhaps you could wrap them before the deer get there instead of afterwards.
You haven't said much about conditions. For example do these trees get any sun? What do you mean by "water regularly", how do you determine when to water? Do you have any pictures of the dying?
D
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You have deer problems. Prevent them in the first place, don't wait for damage and then try to prevent further damage. Deer WILL find your little trees and they WILL attack them unless you prevent that. Parts of Britain are very illustrative of how effective deer are at preventing trees from growing, unless the trees are protected from deer when they are planted.

Actually, the solution for planting trees in clay is to plant them _in_ clay, not in potting soil in a hole in (nor a pile on top of) the clay. A tree has to be able to deal with the soil it's going to live in if it's going to grow - putting it in potting soil tends to make it act like a potted plant (the roots hit the clay and go in circles, rather than pushing through it the way a tree grown from seed in the terrible soil would.) Choose the smallest/youngest bare-root trees you can get/find/order, sift the soil dug out of the hole to break up clods and plant the tree in the hole with the soil that came out of the hole. If the situation permits, working a whole row with a tractor-drawn subsoiler may be a good initial preparation technique. A bit difficult in the average backyard, though - but renting a small excavator and digging a trench for several trees, rather than a hole per tree, may work out. Away from the immediate planting zone you can simply put the clods back in the trench and let time sort them out, rather than sifting them as you should where you are actually planting. Be sure to call dig-safe and know where anything they would not know to mark (sprinklers, your yard-light wire, your septic pipes...) is on your property before trying that. If you can add a drainage pipe in the bottom that leads somwhere that the water can drain to, so much the better.
Certain rootstocks are also better suited to clay soils. For full-sized cherries, "Mazzard" tolerates clay better than "Mahaleb" - in dwarfing rootstocks there will be various rootstocks of other names, and some will be better, some worse, in clay or "heavy" soils. If your vendor doesn't tell you what the rootstock is, choose a different vendor. You might also need to vary to fruits (such as pears or apples) more generally tolerant of clay; but the right rootstock can make a big difference (or, the wrong ones just up and die in clay...)
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Ecnerwal wrote:
...many good comments snipped but worth re-reading...
also if you can find books at the library written by Sepp Holzer, his fruit tree methods aim at getting a very hardy fruit tree growing. once you've digested those give Masanobu Fukuoka a read as he also aims at growing natural fruit trees that do not need so many gadgets and high maintenance. both of these people have spent their lives learning such things, so they are worth a read and consideration in contrast to the usual commercial fertilizer/pesticide fare you'll likely get in most standard gardening/lawn- care references.
of course, both may not apply to your climate but at least it's good reading. :)
songbird
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songbird wrote:
...
and the other comment i forgot to add in my previous reply:
heavy clay soils benefit from added organic matter, but for establishing an orchard or other more permanent planting i would not go very far in digging in materials. instead i would contour the area properly so that the trees will not be waterlogged, but then i would put the trees in place and mulch them well including to be sure to add enough green stuff to the mulch layer so that worms will find it and begin to make trails for the tree roots to follow down in search of water and nutrients.
years ago someone asked me what i would do to plant a tree in heavy clay in his front yard. i took one look and i said, "trench it down about a foot in a half in a star pattern out from the hole for the tree. make sure to have at least one of these trenches drain into a ditch so the tree won't waterlog. fill the trenches with some topsoil and some added wood chips and other organic materials including a long release fertilizer, this will encourage the tree roots to spread out and travel along those trenches."
now i think that's overkill. nature/worms can do the work if you give it plenty of top mulch and the tree has time to get established. plant a good diversity of cover crops around the tree and keep it protected from deer, trim away any cover crops that block too much of the sun, but a little shade is ok if the summers get really hot. other than that, don't water too frequently, preferably don't water at all (the tree should suit the climate), if you do have to water, water deeply (but not too much all at once).
songbird
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