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 planting a plum: container or crappy soil? 
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Joined: Fri May 04, 2007 9:18 am
Posts: 58
Post planting a plum: container or crappy soil?
Hey most excellent fruit maestros! I'd love to have your collective wisdom on this:

I have a Brooks plum on St. Julien A rootstock which is currently in a pot. I want to espalier it. There's only one spot I can see it going: running north-south in what is currently my lawn, as I have crammed as much as I can into the rest of my yard. So, as I see it, my planting choices are:

1) Dig a hole, put plum in hole, replace with "native" soil. The problem with this is the native soil is basically sand. It is horrible cheap rocky crap.

2) Dig hole, amend soil, plant plum in hole. The problem with this is I understand amending soil can lead to the plant developing a poor root system, in that it sticks to the amended area and doesn't spread beyond it.

3) Move the plum into a larger pot, where it can have very nice soil but where it's growth may be limited by being in a container.

I'm going to have to mow and/or weedwhack around this, so that's also a consideration.

Thoughts, sages?


Wed Apr 15, 2009 3:21 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1186
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: planting a plum: container or crappy soil?
Great questions, hope I can meet your excellent expectations :D and that we get some ‘collective wisdom.’ …Big sweet rich orange-meated prunes…

I’d go with plan two: “2) Dig hole, amend soil, plant plum in hole. The problem with this is I understand amending soil can lead to the plant developing a poor root system, in that it sticks to the amended area and doesn't spread beyond it.”

Actually, you’ll likely be saved by the sand! If your conditions were more like mine (though constantly complaining about some clay hillside, I do have some very rich ground, too) – clay, you’d be in real trouble.

The problem you describe happens when your base soil is thick (pottery capable) clay and doesn’t drain. The slick edges of the hole act as ‘a pot’ where the roots become trapped inside… With the sandy junk you describe, it will at least drain and allow for easy root expansion.

Amending the soil will give it a good start… then I’d deep-water and fertilize toward the outside edge of the planting, to draw the roots from the better soil. Just remove as much of that junky soil as you can, then bust up the surrounding stuff some – all the time remembering the adage, dig a ten dollar hole for a five dollar tree!

I plow as much effort and decent soil (or at least a good mixing of soils) into a new planting as I can. You’ve only got one shot, so make it good! …Now there goes this is weekend :mrgreen:

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Wed Apr 15, 2009 10:17 pm
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1406
Location: Portland, OR
Post Re: planting a plum: container or crappy soil?
You didn't say where you lived. In sand, too much drainage can be a problem. I plant at a cabin on the Oregon Coast and until I put in organic material into the hole, the trees died of thirst in the summer. With the plum tree, I would add compost at planting and periodically mulch with it from time to time.
John S
PDX OR


Wed Apr 15, 2009 10:58 pm
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Joined: Fri May 04, 2007 9:18 am
Posts: 58
Post Re: planting a plum: container or crappy soil?
Thanks for the excellent advice! I didn't realize anybody had replied as previously I seemed to get email notices when people replied and I didn't get any notices this time. (Ah -- just noticed the "notify me" checkbox ... D'uh!) But I very much appreciate your prompt comments. As for where I live ... I'm in Vancouver, BC and have a smallish condo yard. The soil at least immediately under the grass is the sandy crap I mentioned, and at some point below that, if it's relevant, is the underground parking garage.

So ... I will add compost, manure, fertilizer (organic?), or all of the above to a big hole ... how wide/deep would you dig? I think the plum is in a 2 gallon pot right now. Thanks again for all the help --- D.


Sat Apr 18, 2009 9:20 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1186
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: planting a plum: container or crappy soil?
“…and at some point below that, if it's relevant, is the underground parking garage.”

That’s interesting. I wonder how deep..? Guess in your hole-digging process you could attempt to find out :D

“So ... I will add compost, manure, fertilizer (organic?),”

As mentioned, the bigger the better… especially if you’re adding soil. “Organic’s” up to you… though it generally breaks down slower; you may want something a bit faster acting. ...but with all that sand, it might wash out quick -- how about a blend of both?

Getting (and keeping) the grass back is also important. Grass will constantly compete for water and nutrients - and always get them first! I can’t really recommend a size… though bigger seems better.

Just keep in mind, the roots will seek what they need, as long as they have the strength. Most fruit tree roots stay pretty close to the surface, finding the soil richer and moisture closer.

…Been a long time since I’ve been to Vancouver, BC. Much like ‘us,’ I believe Saanichton fuzzy kiwi’s are from Vancouver, BC… you haven’t any of them crawling around, do you..? Couldn’t recommend them in tight quarters, but I’ve got some well established vines. When I read they were doing well in BC I figured they’d make it on my rural hillside, too. Here you go:

“Saanichton fuzzy kiwi: Similar to the fuzzy kiwi that you buy in the store. However, it is more winter hardy (to about 5 degrees F) and it is successfully grown from California to as far north as Vancouver, Canada, since it ripens a couple of weeks before the variety Hayward. It is a large sweet fruit, heavily productive and easy to peel.” …Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten started, but I’m still eating them from the refrigerator, daily, and can never recommend them enough.

Good planting – and if you hit that parking garages roof – do tell :mrgreen:

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Sun Apr 19, 2009 8:18 am
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Joined: Fri May 04, 2007 9:18 am
Posts: 58
Post Re: planting a plum: container or crappy soil?
Thanks for all the advice! Re: kiwis -- I don't know of the Saanichton variety -- although there is a place called Sanich on Vancouver Island -- but the real issue is I don't have the space for kiwis. :-( If I only had more space. And more sun. ;-) I envy you your orchard!

Thanks again for the tips. Now I just have to dig that damn hole... D.


Fri Apr 24, 2009 12:40 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1186
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: planting a plum: container or crappy soil?
“Thanks again for the tips. Now I just have to dig that damn hole... D.”

Just wait for the ground to thaw :wink:

…and before further envy, you should see my ‘lawn,’ not yet touched this year, some (the fertile) places are nearly a foot deep! …if a couple of acres worth, and easily a four hour job on a riding mower - not counting trimming with a straight-shafted ‘weed-eater’ and walk-behind mower. …It will have me envying those with manageable plots in no time! Throw in a multitude of animal intrusives and sometimes it's nearly too much. At least for those with the fruit addiction, a smaller lot keeps us in check, as larger ones may likely kill us :|

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Fri Apr 24, 2009 7:05 pm
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Joined: Fri May 04, 2007 9:18 am
Posts: 58
Post Re: planting a plum: container or crappy soil?
It's true. I totally have my hands full with the plants I have, never mind my own patch of unmowed lawn ... which is about to get smaller ... if I can get it together to dig that hole -- ! BTW my fig hasn't leafed out yet -- is that normal? I think I remember that it didn't leaf out 'til quite late last year, but I'm starting to get worried ... D.


Fri Apr 24, 2009 8:51 pm
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1406
Location: Portland, OR
Post Figs leafing out
Mine have leafed out, but where do you live? That's a big factor.
JohnS
PDX OR


Fri Apr 24, 2009 10:10 pm
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Joined: Fri May 04, 2007 9:18 am
Posts: 58
Post Re: planting a plum: container or crappy soil?
I live in Vancouver, BC, which shouldn't be that different from Oregon. Oh dear. I hope it wasn't killed by our hard winter here. I've scratched the bark, and it is green underneath. Oh dear. I guess there's not much I can do but wait. And worry. Oh dear!


Sun Apr 26, 2009 12:19 am
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1186
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: planting a plum: container or crappy soil?
Well, the bulk of my mowing is done… my ground's fertility fluctuates so much, to make it worth mowing everything - I wait until the poorest soil areas are high enough --- by which time the rich ground is mighty thick! But a Sears ‘lawn tractor’ did the trick (and about 4 hours)!

Don’t panic, or obsess over your fig! I’m glad you’ve got one. Mine have just begun to break bud at their very tips, nothing close to ‘leaves.’ My Kiwi, on the other hand, have been putting out leaves for 2 or 3 weeks… Scary We had a ‘local frost’ last week … but where I’m at, nothing(!). Frost generally settles on the valley floors, just a ways up into the hills the air apparently moves, or drains down (like water) and it can be much safer. All of the surrounding vineyards are on hillsides, partially for that reason, the other being it’s clay soil is far cheaper.

I’m curious how cold it got ‘up there’ last winter? I don’t remember extreme cold around here, but I’ll never forget our 30 inch snow total! … which reminds me… I wonder if it’s a burn day, I’ve a pile of fir limbs :wink:

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Sun Apr 26, 2009 9:07 am
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Joined: Fri May 04, 2007 9:18 am
Posts: 58
Post Re: planting a plum: container or crappy soil?
Hey there ...

It wasn't extremely cold here, but cold enough for long enough that lots of people lost lots of plants. Many large rosemary bushes, including mine, bit the dust. We had a foot or two of snow on the ground for several weeks, which is unusual here. Cars and buses were "snowed in", etc. Sounds like you had a similar year down there. I kind of like the snow, but I need to learn more about protecting tender plants. Live and learn!


Mon May 04, 2009 2:54 pm
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