The first thing we wanted to plant was the almond tree. But as Dan dug the hole, he found that by the time the hole was deep enough to plant the tree, he'd hit water.
No. Good. Nut and fruit trees need well drained soil and will not tolerate standing water. Planting the almond here could kill it.
We'd already seen the potential for this when we got all that rain from Ida. We'd built up the soil where we wanted to plant the trees, so that after the next heavy rain the water drained better. However, we now realized that surface drainage wasn't helping subsurface standing water. Granted we have clay soil, which holds water, but also we've had a lot of rain: 6 inches in November and over 5 inches during the first two weeks of December. The good news is that our drought is officially over.
We needed a Plan B for our little almond tree. After a little discussion, we decided to plant it where I had wanted to put a ginkgo tree, in last summer's garden.
This is a semi-dwarf, self-fertile All-In-One Almond tree, and this is a good spot for it.
I had pretty much decided against the ginkgo after Dan and I visited a local nursery that carried them. We had a good discussion about shade trees with the manager there, and learned that in our part of the country, ginkgoes grow slowly and actually don't do well. Since then, Dan and I have been discussing possibilities for this spot as well as shading the house from the hot, setting summer sun. A true shade tree would take a long time to grow, so we have been considering trellises and a vine on that side of the house. (Maybe now I can plant hops!). Because of all this, it was easy to decide where to put the almond tree.
The spots for the elder bushes are on higher ground, so they went in as planned.
These are common North American Elders, Sambucus canadensis. The zigs and zags of the fence give me eight spots to plant shrubs and bushes on the garden side, and these two are the first. For the rest of them, I'm considering two more blueberry bushes (types for fresh eating, for which my rabbiteye is not), two raspberry bushes, and maybe two rugosa rose bushes. Hopefully I can get all those in by spring!
We were still concerned about the lowest apple tree we planted, considering the water problem we discovered. Even though it is up the slope from where we planned to put the almond, we wondered if it was still too low for the underground water to drain completely.
We dug a trench for drainage and it did get a little water seeping into it. This trench will be filled with stone like a French drain and covered with soil.
The big question is what to do long term. Best possibility might be to put a cistern at that bottom corner of the garden. That way we could channel all the water coming down the hill into it for future use.
As much as we wish we could have followed through with our original plan, all this rain before planting has been a blessing. If it hadn't been for that, we wouldn't have known about this drainage "problem." At least we found out about it beforehand and can change our plans accordingly.
Almonds & Elderberries, Plan B photos & text copyright