Growing fruit on shallow or wet soil

Most fruiting plants require well drained soils. Trees and shrubs in saturated soil (annuals too for that matter) will slowly suffocate or rot for lack of air to the root system. Heavy rains and heavy soils prevalent in Vermont make siting a challenge.

A raised bed is a great strategy for improving drainage and air flow in the soil. Woody plants appreciate it just as much as annuals. However, given the larger size of the root system, a larger bed is often in order.

How do we build an adequately deep raised bed? Here at the nursery, we frequently plant trees and shrubs into piles of coarse woody debris loosely covered with topsoil and compost, an age old practice called hugelkultur (translated loosely from German as "hill-beds.") Woody debris (logs, branches, etc.) are abundant in our landscape and easy to move and pile. Depending on the wetness of the existing site and the anticipated size of the root mass, the mound may be adjusted accordingly. We have planted into mounds from six inches to six feet tall.

In addition to improving drainage, the wood acts as a sponge improving water retention during dry times. The decomposition supports healthy fungi in the soil. Decomposing wood will also use nitrogen so it is worth adding animal manure or an organic fertilizer for the first couple years.