December 12, 2009

Almonds & Elderberries, Plan B

The almond tree and elderberry bushes I ordered arrived earlier this week. Like the fruit trees, there was a rain delay before we could plant them. Thursday was cold and blustery but sunny, so we took advantage and set out to plant them. The almond tree was to go in the spot we prepared in October for it and the fruit trees. The elderberry bushes were to go in the garden side zigs of the zig zag fence.

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 


Geodyne said...

I'm so excited for you, with all your trees. My orchard is still in pots and will be for some years yet, I fear.

Theresa said...

Plan B's and Plan C's have all come into play at times.
It's good to have the back-ups.
Good idea about the french drain. They do a good job.
We put one in all around the house foundation, just in case, when we built.

Life Looms Large said...

Ditto on the French drain. We had a drainage problem in our backyard. When we got our patio installed they put a French drain under it and it resolved the problem.

If I dig in our rocky NH soil, I'd have a hole with large and small rocks in it - not water!!


Woolly Bits said...

to be honest, we only ever had plan b:)) we started to do all the garden decisions without too much thinking, whatever we could afford to buy, went in... it usually took a year or two (or more) to find out that some things worked - and some didn't. we planted two gingko trees, when our son was born, one did quite well, and the other stood poorly for years. only when we replanted it, it started to look happy and is making up for lost time now. we also have a problem with the rain amount here. mediterranean plants only survive the winters if I either leave them in pots and bring them into the tunnel - or if I put a lot of gravel or sand into the planting hole! unfortunately this means that they aren't as well rooted against wind, so for trees this isn't really a good option:(( all trial and error - but luckily you can repair most mistakes in a garden - given time:))

Leigh said...

Good grief! I didn't know I had published this! I thought I hit "save" before I shut the computer down last night. Surprise on me! Oh well, I can edit after the fact just as well. :)

Geodyne I do have a dwarf lemon tree in a pot, which will have to stay there forever because our winters get too cold. The plan is a greenhouse for it, eventually!

Theresa, one thing I've discovered about owing an old home is that the plans are everchanging *lol. It seems like the longer we wait on things, the more the plans change. I just hope there aren't anymore drastic surprises like this one was.

Sue, I know how it is with those rocks! When I lived in Arkansas, we used to lament that there wasn't a market for them.

We put French drains around the previous house we lived in (rented actually) and they made a wonderful difference when the flooding rains came. Dan plans to do the same to this house, even though it has naturally good drainage. The garden was a surprise in terms of drainage, but at least there are solutions.

Bettina, interesting comment. I have discovered that about plants too, that some locations make them "happy," some they just don't thrive in. It's a concern with large plants like trees, because they are so difficult to move.

I'm planning a Mediterranean herb garden in one of those beds in front of the house. I do plan to incorporate a lot of sand into it. Hopefully the will do okay with our winters.

Julie said...

I just can't believe you are still planting when we just keep getting snow storm after snow storm.

Leigh said...

Julie, I think we're getting your snow as rain. We've had a couple forecasts for sleet and snow but it's always a tad too warm for that by the time it arrives. Instead we get rain and the bone-chilling cold that comes with the humidity rain brings.

bspinner said...

I don't know of anyone who hasn't used Plan B. For us not to many things go right the first time so we're sort of used to Plan B.

I love your zig zag fence. I would love to have one of those around our property.

Nina said...

Yep, plan B - my raised composted beds. When the original garden space proved to be unsuitable for tomatoes, beans and a few other plants, we decided on a new garden space. That turned into the Stott Lasagna garden experiment, which was done in raised beds. Now I'm wondering if I knock the two humps to fill in the gap, will I get more useable garden space that way? That would be plan C!

Leigh said...

Barb, thanks for liking the zig zag fence. We almost always seem to favor that "rustic" look.

I think you're right about plans. That's probably why it's good to think through alternatives beforehand. This was one of those things we hadn't expected, but at least we had another spot picked out!

Nina, your plan C sounds like a winner! I love the idea of raised bed gardening (and the lasagna technique) but we haven't made one raised bed yet.

Katrien said...

Yep, plan B. Know all about it. Latest plan B was a redesign of our hoop house, while it stood, while it was collapsing.
Those trees look soooo good! Good luck with the water problem. Maybe a swale would help?

Robin said...

Not plan B!!!! Lol, yeah things seem to change a lot around here too. I hate those two little words I've heard Lee say a few times (oh crap) because it means we have to change our plans. I think we are on plan P on our bathroom with more letters to go.

I still have more fruit trees and bushes that I want to get in the next couple of years. We will have to see how many of our newly planted trees come back next year. Hopefully all of them. I was very tired of lugging the buckets of water to them by the end of the summer.

Heather said...

How wonderful to get some fruit trees going, I miss all my old ones. Won't it be great to have Elderberries right there in your own yard!

I think that being open to Plan B makes for a much happier life. What is that saying about Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans...that's sort of a Plan B quote, heh? ;-)