Why no amended soils

noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)April 11, 2011

I also have a question about amending soils for citrus. I've read in several places not to amend the soil when planting citrus in the ground. What is amending and why is it bad to do so? What if my soil is very poor and plants have never done well in it?



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art_1(10 CA)

From what I've read, mixing other ingredients into the native soil may cause problems by:

1) Creating a bowl for water to collect leading to root rot
2) Causing roots to circle within the looser soil, similar to burying a container in the ground

Here are some ideas:



    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 2:20AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Vivian, if the soil is poor, it might be a good idea to determine what the problems are and try to fix it on a larger scale. For example, we have hard red clay here...someone would think it pure folly to plant trees or anything else in it. BUT, it does drain well. If it were a mucky mess for days after a rain fall, I would have to install some drainage systems and build on berms (raised beds). As is, we plant every thing directly into the clay with no amendments and plants thrive.

If your soil has some serious problems of some kind, it might be a good idea to consider preparing an entire plant bed rather than just planting hole-by-hole. That way, you can add plenty of good amendments with little worry that your trees will end up sitting in a 'bathtub', or that the root system will be loath to ever venture out into the native soil.

SO! What I would like to know, Vivian, is what you mean by "my soil is very poor". It might not be that much of a fix!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 12:39PM
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Its long been known that roots, citrus roots included, resist growing through, or into, a soil interface that contains a different texture, water holding capacity, density, aeration level, and mineral structure.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 7:11PM
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Saying that you should not amend your soils as an immutable mantra is, in my opinion, too inflexible. Some of us have soil in which it is impossible to grow certain plants. I have tried growing citrus in my heavy clay (without amending) with great failure.

On the other hand, if there is a sharp transition between a well draining soil and clay you have a recipe for disaster. The water will simply collect at the interface between the two and cause root problems.

My approach when amending soils is to attempt to create a gradient between the soil you are adding and your natural soil. For instance, at the top you will have 100% added soil, at 6 inches below the surface you will have 70% added soil/30% natural, at 1 foot you will have a 50/50 mix of soils, etc. This will create a more natural transition between your added and natural soils.

Using this method, I have had quite a bit of success with plants that would otherwise not have grown in the heavy clay present in my area.


    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 1:13AM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

Hi Rhizo! I mean the soil is just clay. In thinking about it, the Satsuma tree down the street is in the same soil and it's done beautifully for 30-35 years and for the last ten years, has had no care at all and still tries to put on bumper crops. The fruit is smaller than when the tree was younger, but still tastes good. In fact, my husband and I walked down to the corner to see the tree and get an idea of how far away from the sidewalk the tree was planted and he picked four little oranges that were still hanging onto the tree and they were so good. Still juicy and sweet. They had shrunk inside the peels, but that just made them easier to peel. I hope my tree will do as well.

I would like to see it get a good pruning because their yard man butchered the poor tree--Just chopped it up.

I would like to go saw off the rootstock that has grown up through the tree before it grafts itself onto the main Satsuma tree trunk. The house has stood empty for quite a few years now.

We all pick fruit from the tree rather than let it rot on the tree. I would also like to feed the tree a bit, since it's just got grass and weeds under it. The branches formed an umbrella canopy around the root area and that's what's been destroyed now.

Sorry--Didn't mean to get carried away about that other tree.

The tree will be in the front yard and not in any kind of bed. It's a small area, but not small enough to be able to till it all up.

The instructions for planting say to dig a hole a little larger than the rootball and that's it. I thought, by loosening the soil in a larger area like 3' x 3' for a start, we'd be helping the tree. I'm glad for all your input so we didn't hurt the tree instead of giving it a good start.

That's interesting about roots resist growing through, or into a soil that is a different texture, Silica.

Hi Art, Thanks for providing the answer for not amending soils and the amended soil acting like a basin that will hold water after a rain.



    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 1:28AM
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I read where someone went beyond digging a hole that was simply double the root ball. In other words, he dug out a very large area and added the new soil. Thus, the citrus tree did not "know" it was in amended soil.

I also heard on a garden radio show where you create a small dry well under the plant. Dig the hole deeper than you would normally and add a layer of gravel. Then add your soil layers. I have done this for other plants that needed extra drainage and it works splendidly.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 5:06PM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

We's old folk and even if it made sense, we couldn't dig a huge hole for planting, but if we were younger..... We planted the tree this afternoon and my husband used our little tiller to dig a hole for the tree. First, he scalped away the grass with the weed eater. The soil was quite nice and I was surprised. We planted it ground level and made a circle around it with landscaping stones. I put mulch around the inside of the stones, leaving about 8" away from the tiny trunk, of bare soil. As the tree grows, we can widen the circle, but I'm told the satsumas are slow-growers, so that may take longer than we have left to live before the circle needs to be enlarged!

I hope the tree does well and thrives. It has set quite a few teensy oranges on it that I'll have to remove so the tree can grow a bit before it's left to fruit. I wish I could have found a larger tree, but the ones I found looked pitiful and were $99.00. The leaves were all yellowed.

Thanks for all the input. If the tree does do well, I'll let y'all know about it.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 1:35AM
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Good luck on your tree and please don't regret not purchasing a larger one. In this situation, a younger tree is generally much better even in the "short-term" of 3-4 years from now.

The larger trees I've planted just seem to take longer to establish and by then the younger ones have caught up quickly. This is assuming typical grafted citrus you buy at a nursery.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 2:44PM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

Thanks, Cebury. If things go well for the tree, I'll let y'all know.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 1:17AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Brett, your comments are very well taken. There are certainly soil situations that require some consideration...."reconfiguring", lol.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 12:15PM
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The general rule of not adding amendments is just that. 99% of the time you should not other than to add something missing in the soil. Small amounts of things like Ironite or Epsom Salts or liquid Kelp are OK. The big no no's are things that change the texture or water retaining qualities of the soil. However if your soil is so poor that the tree is unlikely to survive without amendments the rule must be broken. If this is the case its best to grow in raised rows or raised beds or amend an area so large the tree will not be greatly harmed when the roots reach the end of the amended soil.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 9:52PM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

Thanks. I've bookmarked this thread in my favs for future reference. :)


    Bookmark   April 17, 2011 at 12:19AM
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