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Field of dreams — with water

Either we have the biggest gophers on earth at Chez Siberia, or this is a project gone mad, right?

One of the reasons (rationalizations might be a better word) for buying Chez Siberia in the first place is that there was enough property to put in fruit trees. We’ve always wanted to have fruit trees. So, one year, in a fit of end of the summer stuff, we dug a massive number of holes and planted something like 20 different types of apples up on the hill next to the barn on the north side (don’t ask me why we chose that particular spot – it’s lost in the mists of time), at the end of what was, frankly, a rather dry summer. And being total beginners (and being in a hurry), even though there was water in the bottom of the holes, we planted the trees anyway.

And every single one of those trees died the next year. Every…single…one.

And looking back, we probably deserved it because of our total and complete idiocy about skipping over the instructions in the book (and goodness knows we have enough gardening books) that said, ‘plant in well-drained soil’. Well-drained does NOT include soils that have so much clay in them that when you dig a three foot hole, the water is still there three days later. We basically rotted the trees to death.

(Digression number one: if you ever move to the country and have to get what is referred to coyly as ‘a perc test’ for a septic system this is what is done. The health dept. comes out, digs a three foot hole and comes back three days later. If the water is still there, you have ‘no perc’ (no percolation) and they look for another, more suitable spot.)

So, this time, we chose the south side of the barn, hoping this would be a better choice.

And from a comparative standpoint, although this particular hole looks remarkably full of water (after a week of super cold weather and no rain, I might add), there are only three of them with the problem and two of them are next to one another in what is obviously technically referred to as ‘a wet spot.”

What to do? What to do? (because the trees will be coming to us very soon)

Well, over the years we have gotten a lot smarter (and tend to take the directions a lot more seriously). First, you have two choices with something like this.

If we had like an entire row of holes with deep water, we would:
Take a systemic strategy to the drainage issue
, and either hire someone with a Bobcat(tm) or a Ditchwitch(tm) to dig us a ditch 3-4′ down, a foot or so wide, all along the side of that part of the row of holes with water toward even an even lower place which is where the water really wants to go (on the side which is sloping DOWN), line it with landscaping fabric, fill the ditch with rocks of small, medium and fist-sizes rocks),put in perforated plastic pipe, more gravel and cover it up according to directions. This would pull the water away from the holes with the trees. And that is a long-term and excellent solution, one which actually we plan to put into the works along a part of our property which abuts our neighbor’s property and which will dry out both the house’s basements.

But, in this case, we only have three holes and they are not all in a line. We have spotty issues, so in this case, we are going to:
Take a ‘spot fixing’ approach
, which is to attack each hole with bottom layers of rocks, wood chips, and compost and raise up what will be, when we plant the trees, the bottom of the root balls up away from the water. In other words, we are going to go at these particular trees in a raised bed fashion, sloping the final layers of soil at the top away from the trees themselves. This should do the job for these trees and although it is not a systemic approach, it IS something we can do ourselves (finding an excavator who can come ‘on call’ at this point is rather a fool’s errand), and fairly quickly also.

And for anyone with the question – the low last week was 17 degrees F but now we are back up in the low 60s. Hoo-ah!!!

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