Often maligned but full of potential, growing fruit trees in clay may have its challenges but with a little care and know how, it’s possible to grow a mass of delicious fruit even on thick heavy soils. Though for best results, siting the tree planting it well and some basic knowledge of fruit trees definitely helps.
Clay soils are often full of useful minerals but due to the poor soil structure most of it is inaccessible to the plant. This poor structure is caused by the qualities of the clay particles in the soil. These particles are incredible small and tend to stick together, making it hard to dig in, and it also accounts for why clay soils seem to go from a dry concrete in summer to a wet sloppy mess in winter.
Adding Organic Matter and aerating – By adding compost and sheep pellets and by aerating the soil you can open it up and improve the soil structure.
Gypsum – This isn’t a quickfix, but adding it in the long term it can really help improve your soil. The miniscule clay particles are slightly negatively charged and the calcium causes the particles to clump together. This effectively increases the particle size of the soil and stops clay sticking together and improves the structure. The EcoFlo Gypsum is fantastic to use both while planting, or can be used on established fruit trees as well. Make sure it is well shaken before use.
Adding life to the soil – By adding organic matter and by feeding with a natural fertiliser such as Aquaticus Garden Booster or Natures Organic Fertiliser, we can increase the number of beneficial microbes in the soil (a teaspoon of healthy garden soil can have around a billion bacteria and yards of fungal strands). This in turn will increase the number of worms, and collectively they will work together helping to improve the soil structure as well as helping to feed plants and providing them protection from many pests and diseases.
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Certain trees are fussier about where they are planted than others.
Pears – Can cope with damper spots.
Plums and Apples – Fairly free-draining soil is needed. Apples on MM106 (semi dwarfing rootstock) will cope with heavier clay soils than those on M9 (dwarf rootstock).
Peaches and citrus– Free draining spots needed. When planting on clay it’s best to plant on a slope and take care to improve the soil when planting. Grafted Citrus trees do better on clay soils than cutting grown trees, and those on a full-size rootstock tend to do better than those on dwarf.
How you plant your trees can have a huge impact on how well your trees do and how long it takes them to get established. Digging a small hole may save time in the short term, but it can slow your trees growth down by years.
Dig a hole at least twice as deep and wide as the pot it came in. Add a handful of gypsum to the bottom of your hole and mix it in.
Backfill the hole mixing in compost and sheep pellets with your soil. Break up the edge of your hole as you backfill and try to save the best soil for the top of the hole.
Mix a handful of gypsum into the loosened soil, dig a hole in the soil to fit your tree and then carefully plant.
In spots where you are worried about drainage plant into a slight mound. Improving the drainage in the area around your tree can also help.
Mulch regularly and feed monthly through spring and summer with Aquaticus Garden Booster.
Water your trees deeply, leaving the hose on each tree for around 5 minutes, every few weeks (or if they look dry) through the drier part of the year.