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Raised beds for fruit trees


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  • Raised beds for fruit trees


    I am wanting to plant some dwarf stock fruit trees on my allotment. The soil is rubbish, solid clay when you dig down after about a foot or less. So everyone uses raised beds.

    I've made one raised bed which is about 5 ft x 5 ft as cut the planks in half and they are 3 metres long. And the bed is 2 planks deep, I forget off the top of my head how wide they are. I think 150mm. Before I filled this one I dug a hole in the middle approx. 1.5 to 2 ft deep and wide and filled it with compost and soil. I've got a pretty wide space around it and it took a massive amount of soil to fill it. So I'm wondering whether to make the other planters a bit smaller, maybe cut each plank into 3 instead of 2 so they'd be about 3ft 3" square or thereabouts.

    How much width do you reckon the trees would need in these circumstances? I'm planning cherry and apple to start with.

    Many thanks
    Jennie x

  • #2
    Tree roots will go where ever they want and usually a lot further than 3 feet. What you have to consider is they will take water and nutrients from other places nearby, so bear that in mind, they will also throw shade, which also needs to be considered before planting. I have always had fruit trees away from other crops by around 15 feet or so, though to be fair not always on dwarfing rootstock, even an M27 can get 6 foot tall, this may help.
    Rootstocks for fruit / RHS Gardening
    If I'm not on here, I'm probably fishing.


    • #3
      Thank you. This in itself is not a problem as I have 2 plots and the trees will have this plot all to themselves, I am making this section into a small orchard but most of it will remain just grass. The other plot will have the veggie planters but between the two there is a shed and hopefully there will be a greenhouse next year some time so plenty of space between.

      My main concern was how much good soil they need around them to flourish really

      Thanks again


      • #4
        Link is helpful too, thank you x


        • #5
          Originally posted by Jendee View Post
          My main concern was how much good soil they need around them to flourish really
          Clay is still fundamentally good soil. It's nutrient rich and water retentive. The main problem is how heavy and potentially poorly draining it can be.

          For dwarf fruit trees, that 3ftx3ft (by 1ft deep) raised bed you describe ought to be plenty to get them started, and after that their roots will quite happily spread into the clay and they should have no problems.


          • #6
            Thank you, that sounds like I can go with that plan.

            The site gets very boggy in the winter, the water table is very high. I am planning to put some drainage channels down in the Spring. This land has not been previously cultivated and has loads of soft rush which we've been digging up.

            The tree planters will be along the edge of the bottom fenced section by the hedge. And the part above the gate is where the veggie planters are going. Only started on this in June so a long way to go.

            Thanks for your help.


            • #7
              Does everyone on the plot plant their trees in raised beds though,the tree roots would be growing above soil level & they need to go deep for anchorage? My gardens the same,it"s hard to dig deeper than a foot in places where the clays compacted & large stones etc but you can dig enough to plant the tree. You could move some soil around to raise the level of soil a bit all over the plot eventually,without using raised beds as it"s a plot just for trees. Is the plot well draining or does water puddle for days,are you thinking of one tree per raised bed,I"m picturing it in my head & it might be better without using a load of wood?


              • #8
                Hi Jungle Jane, drainage is bad at the moment, lots of standing water. I'm planning to add some drainage channels in the spring.

                One other person has a lot of trees, all in raised beds. Another planted them maybe a bit like you suggest, he tried to raise the level a bit and then planted them. However he did say to me that he wishes now he had put them in raised beds.

                Yes I was thinking one tree in each bed. x


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Jungle Jane View Post
                  Does everyone on the plot plant their trees in raised beds though,the tree roots would be growing above soil level & they need to go deep for anchorage?
                  They'll still go deep, even in a raised bed. Once the roots hit the sides, they'll grow downwards, into the soil beneath the bed.


                  • #10
                    One thing to be aware of with drainage for growing purposes is that it is usually used to stop water coming from higher up to a site - NOT for draining away water once it is at a site, as might be the case in a road or house situation. The idea is to stop the soil ever becoming waterlogged by directing the rain water off to one side before it ever reaches the ground you want to keep drier.


                    • #11
                      On our allotment site it is clay over limestone. A strip at the edge of the site was abandoned due to winter flooding leaving several apple trees.
                      The ground remains flooded until the trees come into bud and then they drain it and produce fruit. The remainder if this area has massive blackberries. Apple trees are happy in our clay and some people keep chickens where previous people have grown apples and the chickens rake all over tot root plate all year and eat the apples when they fall.
                      Apples are the only large fruit trees that get old and continue to fruit on our clay. If they were started in raised beds the wood has long since rotted away.
                      Near Worksop on heavy clay soil


                      • #12
                        I'd ensure they are very well staked. M27/M9 and similar need permanent staking and I'd have thought that, in a compost filled raised bed, you'd really want that stake to be in good 'n' proper.


                        • #13
                          I think you better even consult the nursery where you plan to acquire trees. They should know what the optimal space for the tree should be.


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