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Which fruit trees can be grown in clay soil?

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db starts with ...
Unfortunately I have heavy clay soil, so I'm growing my recently purchased fruit plants in a pot. But I would like to grow some clay suitable fruit trees in ground. I'm going to apply gypsum and groundbreaker but it will take time to work and it may not even work on my soil depending on my soil type.

So I would like to know which fruit tress can be successfully grown in clay soil? Only I know is guava tree, anything else? I'm sure lot others have clay soil as well. Are you guys amending your soil before planting or just avoiding to plant any tree in clay soil?

Thanks
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Db
Brisbane
15th February 2012 9:24am
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Janet says...
We have heavy clay soil here in Toormina (nr Coffs Harbour) so B4 we planted our lemon, lime, lemonade, washington navel, kaffir lime, mulberry, Brown Turkey fig and the Angel Peach; we dug a huge hole then added gypsum and lots of compost and manure mixed in with the clay and so far (we have been here over 1 year) all are looking great, except the peach but this is prob due to all the rain.
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janet catesby
Toormina near Coffs Harbour
15th February 2012 2:11pm
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Selfsufficientme says...
db,

I lost 3 avos before I realised the clay was killing them especially Hass due to its long tap root.

I solved my clay problem by building up the soil but first I dug down about a foot deep amd 1 metre wide loosend up the soil threw in some gypsum, compost ect and filled it back in.

Then I mounded free draining good quality soil (I had purchased) on top about 40 cm high at least and 1 metre wide planting the tree essentially above ground. As the tree grows, some roots always stay above the clay.

This method has worked for me with about a dozen trees (including 3 more avos).

Trees that I've seen do ok in clay are mulberry, citrus,and pomegranate.

Cheers :)
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Selfsufficientme
Bellmere
15th February 2012 2:20pm
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db says...
Hi Janet, thanks for the reply and nice to know u can grow those trees in clay soil.. How wide and deep u dug those holes that time?
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Db
Brisbane
15th February 2012 2:21pm
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db says...
Hello SSM, Thank you very much for ur reply, very helpful to me. Digging up 1 feet deep is not that bad at all, I was under impression that i had to dug up much more than 1 feet depth to amend the soil. I'll follow ur steps for planting any trees in ground in future.. Cheers.

Are u sure pomegranate grows well in clay soil without needing any amendment? I think they have shallow root system so only fibrous small roots (correct me if I'm wrong), so i was under impression that they need well drained soil, may be i'm wrong?
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Db
Brisbane
15th February 2012 2:41pm
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winedots says...
It is hard to comment without knowing what type of clay. Clay soils are generally more nutrient rich and support a lot more than a light sandy soil. The problem is air and compaction. Never just dig a hole and place your plant in it particulary after adding lighter material and soil emoluments. This just creates a sump and the roots will just grow around as if in a pot. You need to dig over a much larger area and incorporate your compost. Always keep mulch up to avoid clay splitting. I grow all my fruit trees and some vegies in a clay based soil.
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winedots
Perth
16th February 2012 1:12am
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db says...
Thanks Winedots for the reply, yep I'm going to need lot of compost and need to dig up larger areas for sure..

I would also love to know which trees - other than mentioned in above replies - can be successfully grown in clay soil i.e. without needing any soil improvement? Can someone please confirm me that pomegranate can be grown in clay soil?
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Db
Brisbane
16th February 2012 9:13am
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BJ says...
sapodilla, wongai, panama berry, surinam cherry, grumixama, i think Abiu does okay in clay and rollinia seems fine as well. Some Garcinia dont mind clay and wet feet. Star apple seems okay in some clay.

As was mentioned, depends on how heavy the clay is. If it is straight pottery grade clay, you might have trouble growing antything otehr than pigeon peas in it. I have spots of heavy brown and white clay in my yard, but the layer is not too thick and I generally can dig through it (I only try during our wet weeks though now - My shoulder figured that one out the hard way).

There are a few soil conditioners you can get from the BOGI shop too and they should be able to advise on something that could help.
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Theposterformerlyknownas
Brisbane
16th February 2012 10:37am
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db says...
Thanks BJ for that list above.. Good to know Sapodilla can grow in clay.. Just last week only I put my Sawo Manilla in ground without much amending soil (only added liquid gypsum - groundbreaker in the hole in my raised garden bed) and I was bit worried whether it will grow or not.

I don't think I have pottery grade clay, it looks bit reddish though but nothing like pottery clay. Recently I came across how to do basic soil test and so I did it couple of days back. I put small amount of soil in glass of clear water and mixed it. Water was cloudy after 5-10 minutes but it became almost clear when I kept it overnight. Is my soil VERY heavy clay as water became clear? But that sample soil was wet due to recent rain we had here (so I couldn't mix it in water thoroughly). I've read that result could be false if soil is wet, may be i need to re-test it. Anyway, I surely need to improve it somehow.
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Db
Brisbane
16th February 2012 11:04am
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Original Post was last edited: 16th February 2012 11:06am
Mike says...
I have all my plants on clay and there are really no species that you can't have because of it.Planting on mounded soil is always the best bet,with loads of mulch.There is no such thing as too much organic matter but keep it back from the trunk. Don't make a 'well' of the planting hole by making it a window in the clay.I'm not a fan of gypsum any more after trying to use it as a clay breaker and soil improver and failing.I reckon it can influence nutrient availability with prolonged heavy use.
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Cairns
16th February 2012 6:41pm
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db says...
Hi Mike, I have read it can take at least 1-2 years for powdered Gypsum to work if applied correctly, Have u tried liquid gypsum ie Groundbreaker? Its supposed to work in 8 weeks - at least label says so.

Unfortunately I cannot make big mounds for my trees as I have very small garden and going to plant on side of my house against fence where big mounds are not possible. On backyard, I have raised garden bed where I can possibly improve the soil in it with OM.
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Db
Brisbane
16th February 2012 8:54pm
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Mike says...
db I used powdered gypsum at about 10 to 15 bags a year for about 5 or 6 years and used Mg,Mn/Zn and Fe to compensate.Big mound are not necessary just raised areas.
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Cairns
17th February 2012 5:37pm
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Julie says...
My place is heavy clay too and we just putting in some fruit trees. Our clay has layers of quartz gravel through it and I wondered what effect that would have. We've been busy digging holes at least a foot deep and mounds another foot high above the ground with rich organic compost mixed in the clay. We've added pellet 'dynamic lifter', lime and a soil conditioner. Mulch to come now...Hoping the trees will enjoy it! Does anyone know about the effect of quartz gravel?
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Julie23
Kin Kin
19th February 2012 4:05pm
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Selfsufficientme says...
db,

in regards to pomegranate I have two trees but they're only a few years old. When I researched growing in clay soils (just as you are) pomegranates were flagged as able to withstand clay and so far mine are doing well.

However, I stress building up more than digging down as others have commented - small deep holes in clay just turn into a sump collection. If you can have a foot of good topsoil at ground zero before it hits clay then also a mound above that (at least a metre wide) you can grow almost anything.

It's a little extra work but it's worth it because the tree can sometimes grow well in clay for awhile then suddenly die and it's such a disapponitment and waste of growing time when that happens. I know :)
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Selfsufficientme
Bellmere
21st February 2012 12:31pm
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Kerry B says...
I am in the south west of Western Australia and have heavy brown and white clay soil. I planted all varieties of fruit trees - citrus, apples, nectarines, plums, pears, apricots about 20 years ago directly into the clay with nothing added to the soil, also planted a pomegranate directly into the clay about 7 years ago. All the trees have never looked back and I get abundant, beautiful fruit every year.
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Kerry B
Western Australia
6th December 2012 11:24pm
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Evgeny says...
Melbourne details - apricot trees are growing really well in my heavy clay. One tree is planted 5 another 4 years ago - very healthy. Soil around them needs to be improved though, all posts above in relation to soil improvement are accurate. But my apricot trees are looking so good that I'm convinced that they do enjoy my clay soil. The soil in my garden is generally about 4-5 cm deep of dark good soil, then as deep as I can reach - only whitish clayish matter.

Other experience - my lemon tree has eventually died, pretty much in accordance to the Selfsufficientme post, orange tree not growing at all, but it's in the shade - definitely not helping. 2 cherry trees (planted 5 and 4 years ago) - the younger one is doing really well, the older one is struggling with the clay. However both are producing heavy crop every year. I've raised the soil level for them this winter - hopefully it'll help.
An almond, plum and peach trees are going very well so far, but they were planted only 1 year ago.
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Evgeny
Sydenham
4th July 2014 2:57pm
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Original Post was last edited: 4th July 2014 2:52pm
Ann M says...
I lived in WA including in the South West but never really experienced clay soils until moving to Victoria. Now I fully appreciate it when a label says 'does not like wet feet'. After nursing an avocado through a few years of ordinary growth in an area of the garden which was built on clay it died a few years ago when we had a really really wet winter. Our new avocado trees are on mounds raised 30cm above ground and are doing very well. For me the moral is clay soil is ok if your rainfall is moderate but when it goes on for days the water just will not drain and your trees may die.
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Ann M
Moorabbin Victoria
9th May 2016 10:53am
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Bangkok says...
In that case potassiumphosphite might have saved the tree.

It helps against rootrot for avocadotree's and is also a fertilizer.

My avocado grows very well in 30 cm compost on top of clay soil.
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Bangkok
Thailand
10th May 2016 9:43am
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Martha Elizabeth says...
7 years ago when I moved into the house I now live in I planted a semi dwarf orange tree to replace the two that I had planted at my former home. This house has hard clay soil. I dug the hole three times deeper and wider and added the soil amendments that the nursery recommended The tree still has not grown nor has it died. It just sits there. Is there any orange tree that I can plant in its place that will thrive? I live in San Diego.
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Martha Elizabeth
Normal Heights
9th August 2017 3:27am
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denise1 says...
Gypsum and some amendments recommended for vitalizing clay can be expensive. I have seen surprising and rapid results by using sand and pine bark or untreated pine sawdust. Blend into the ground with a rotary hoe then sow lupin or other suitable plants to help liven the ground. If using mulched tree trimmings it is usual to allow some composting of it before applying as it is believed the nitrogen will be diminished in the ground during that stage. The process could take from 12 to 24 months before you can plant the fruit trees. When plants sit in clay without growing it is important to get the soil aerated get organic material. Also there may be just one element lacking and growth wont happen until the soil is balanced. If you have important, plants or growing a crop for profit it is important to get the soil analyzed not just clay but soils too. Some clay can be Difficult worked too wet or dry. At the right moisture level you can bash clay loam sods with the back of a spade and it crumbles up. You can add compost etc and the soil structure is instantly improved. If you work it too wet the soil pugs up and rapidly deteriorates
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denise1
auckland NZ
9th August 2017 7:46am
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CandeloGuy says...
Hey Folks . . .
I want to plant a citrus orchard - Oranges & Lemons & Mandarins & Limes & Grapefruit & (maybe?) peaches & apricots.

I have a full sun position on our acres, that slopes so its well drained BUT . . .
under about 30-40cms of rich dark dirt there is decomposed granite / clay base.

I have a rotary tiller to break up / aerate the soil, and it will do the same for the granite/clay base if needed.

So, how much depth do the citrus trees need to thrive?
If I cultivate the topsoil, move it aside, then break up 30cms of granite /clay, then recover with the 30cms of topsoil, and maybe mound 15cm as well, will that work?
Is 30 cms of soil enough depth for the feeder roots?
Help!
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CandeloGuy
CANDELO
10th July 2018 4:59pm
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brad16 says...
Hi CandeloGuy,

I have these orchards (the citrus, peaches and apricots). Some of them are planted with granite, and another has 'some' clay but not much.

The clay hasn't bothered my trees at all, although there isn't nearly enough to cause drainage problems.

The granite would be my concern. I just pulled out a tape measure and 30 cm is pretty shallow. I have areas of exposed granite, but I also have areas of soil 1 metre deep and more. I did also plant out in areas with 1/2 m soil containing loose fist size boulders, and even a little larger. My trees are doing fine, but like I said, I'm not a commercial venture. My orchards are for my own personal use and I've planted WAY more than I will ever be able to use (thousands of trees).

You probably could grow something in 30 cm before hitting granite, but commercially I think that's too shallow. It's difficult to gauge someone's intentions when they say 'orchard'. It could mean half a dozen fruit trees or a 20,000 tree commercial venture. I don't want to advise on a commercial venture, because that's someone's living riding on what I say, and I'm not a contract consultant.

To be a little more helpful, here's a link to NSW Department of Primary Industries web page for managing soil for citrus. Go down the page a little to the section 'Soil Examination'. You'll find that quite interesting and they'll have their data from commercial ventures. Funnily enough, it's not too different to what I was expecting to see.

https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/horticulture/citrus/content/crop-management/orchard-management-factsheets/soil

In short, I think you could make it happen for a domestic and personal use orchard. If the slope is steep, I'd look at building retainers that can be used to to build up soil, give you extra depth and minimise direct surface water runoff. I've attempted some quick sketches of the idea. Yes bad drawings, but hopefully it conveys the idea.

Note: I'm thinking backfilling each one with more soil, not just heaping the existing soil in there to make it even shallower in the other other places.
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brad16
GOROKAN,2263,NSW
24th July 2018 1:12am
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jakfruit etiquette says...
Hi CandeloGuy. Citrus are grafted onto rootstocks, and the various rootstocks have different tolerances to soil type.
Some rootstocks are more tolerant of heavier less draining soils, and root disease, some other rootstocks prefer lighter sandy soils, and have low tolerance to wetter soils. The most common rootstocks in use are Poncirus Trifoliata,Poncirus Trifoliata var Flying Dragon, various Citrange types, Swingle Citrumelo and Rough Lemon.
You may want to consider what are suitable rootstocks in use in your area.
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jakfruit etiquette
vic
25th July 2018 7:49am
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CandeloGuy says...
Hi Brad16...
I've been travelling lately and only just now saw your reply.
Wow...thank you so much.
The detail and the link will be very very useful.
It's not a commercial orcha rd...just a lot of citrus for personal use
(And for beekeepers I'm hoping. I want some orange blossom honey)
The retaining edge on the slope will work for me and help mound the dirt.
I have a kanga with cultivator attachment so I can create about 1 to 1.5m if soil depth above the decomposed grnite if I use the mounding.
Your info is greatly appreciated
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CandeloGuy
CANDELO
25th July 2018 10:20pm
#UserID: 18676
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brad16 says...
Hi CandeloGuy,

Don't stop travelling on my account.

If you go the retainers, keep in mind drainage. Your current slope is what is providing it at the moment, and by putting up barriers, you'll be negating one of your best assests with clay and a rock pan.

At the base of the retainers provide spaces for water to drain out. Otherwise they will act like dams for water logged soil.

You could go straight terracing if you like, but by my reckoning, that would trap too much water and you'll have water logging issues.

Something else to consider is the weight of the soil and moisture behind the barrier. As the grade of the slope increases, so will the tendency for the barriers and soil to slump downhill.

It would be worth considering anchoring the base of the retainer into the granite below to hold them in position on the slope. Maybe a few posts?

I haven't used this retainer idea myself. I'm just thinking on my feet to try to find a way to give you an increase in soil depth, but to also have it stay there.

Ensure there is ground cover to hold the soil together and prevent erosion, while mulching the drip line of the trees.
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brad16
GOROKAN,2263,NSW
26th July 2018 10:27am
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denise1 says...
For a largish area you can plough the land when not too wet or dry. That twists the clay/soil and the weather makes it loosen up. For the worst puggy clays you need to work it several times and also use a rotary hoe. You need a very heavy rotary hoe at first or the blades wont dig. Later you can use smaller machinery when the clay soil is more loose it all depends on your grounds qualities. For a single site you can do it by hand with a ditch spade and dig the site into clods WHEN NOT TOO WET OR DRY. If the moisture level is wrong the job will be a waste of time or too difficult, or make matters worse. About 30 to 60cms deep and to 1m diameter. Leave it open to the weather and occasionaly turn over and add a very minimum of compost for up to 3 months. and you have a nicely structured and porous site that you can then add compost etc Remember to add more compost at least yearly to maintain your soils structure and fertility. At least that has been my experience.
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denise1
auckland NZ
27th July 2018 8:11am
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Original Post was last edited: 27th July 2018 8:24am

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