Best options for drainage

I planted a bunch of new trees about two months ago. I have the classic struggle of having quite limited space to fit all the trees I want to plant. I chose to plant my sweet cherry trees somewhere the grass was dead, because I figured that meant there was plenty of sun and not much water in that location. I didn’t dig in the ground to plant my cherries. I just set them against the ground and piled up dirt around them to create a small raised planting.

Well since I have planted them, constant standing water between my house and the neighbor’s has started to accumulate. We told the neighbor that it was likely they had a leak. So they called a plumber out to check, and it seems that the leak is most likely not in the supply line, but in the waste line from the kitchen sink. It’ll be expensive to find and fix, so the result (knowing the neighbor) is that it won’t be fixed, and there will be standing water between our houses for the foreseeable future.

So I need to figure out how I want to handle the drainage.

The pooling is not usually this bad. We just had a heavy storm last night, so the extra water is helpful to see how the water flows and pools. The leak itself is probably 25 feet away from the first tree, based on where the worst pooling is. So I have thought of a few ways to fix my drainage problem, and I’m not quite sure which options I want to execute. I don’t really want to move the trees anywhere else because this is was my only open space. I think I’d prefer the trees die to finding a new spot for them. I’d obviously most like them to live, though.

  1. Dig up the trees before they root any further and add more dirt to raise the beds higher.
  2. Dig a drainage ditch leading to the back yard so the water continues to flow past the cherry trees (hopefully not causing more issues for the trees that would fall along the route). This is how rainwater naturally leaves the property - draining to the back from a slight slope.
  3. Just plant “rain garden” plants in this whole area in the hopes that they soak up all the water.
  4. Dig out a low spot before the water gets to the trees that will catch the majority of the water. I would also appreciate suggestions on how far away this hole should be from the first tree to prevent damage from waterlogging.

I would also appreciate any other ideas people may have even though I’m unlikely to fix the leak myself or move the trees.

Thank you, friends!

Option #3.

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I install French drains using perforated pipe in a “sock”. They are buried 3-4 ft below the soil line at the tree location and have an aboveground sweep-out access made with non-perforated pipe. If the elevation of the planting site is not 5 ft higher than the eventual drain exit then you’ll need raised beds at that location. For fruit trees, the beds need to be at least 8 ft diameter from the center of each tree and do not plant the trees any closer than 8 ft from each other – 12 ft spacing is recommended.

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All done with a tiller and a rake.

You need to change that from flat and boggy to elevated planting areas and drainage.

Good luck.


If you do settle on something along the lines of option #3, you could look to turn the area into something more like a “constructed wetlands”. Accompanying image is from a book on greywater.

Greywater constructed wetlands

Good idea if you want wetlands. Not if you want cherries.

My plan would be 1 and 2.

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What’s the reason for planting the trees so far apart? From what I’ve read, you can plant close together as long as you have compatible rootstock, but I have to admit that I haven’t done a lot of cherry research. I just thought I’d try them out since it was pretty cheap to add a couple more trees to my order. Sweet cherry trees aren’t recommended where I live, so I hadn’t put a lot of thought into it. All I really know about is that water is an issue, which is why I raised them in the first place. I measured it out when I put them in, but I think they’re about 6 feet. If I’m going to be replanting them, I can spare some wiggle room to separate them further if necessary. I would probably have them share a raised bed.

Ah, the plan that is the most work! I guess I’ll have to figure out my ditch route. Maybe I can send it back into my neighbor’s yard! :wink: I doubt they’d care even if I dug a little on their side of the fence.

This ill-advice was started by sellers of plants who wish to increase their sales volume at the expense of your desire to grow more fruit varieties. It has since been repeated as gossip at various garden clubs and plant blogs. In the long run the results will be poor even if you are an expert pruner. An exception would be a chain of espaliered trees that are conducive to training.

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These 2 or 4 persimmon trees (my sisters persimmons) … they just grew wild like that … that used to be a cow pasture… before converted to a subdivision.

Now they are part of her yard.

Not ideal spacing by nature there… but man they make lots of very nice fruit. That is somewhat like you would get with 4 trees planted too close.

Where the trees overlap or run together… not much fruit… but all around the outside plenty of fruit.

Crowding them together like that… is something that trees in nature regularly deal with and do the best they can to live and fruit.

4 trees spaced out properly would no doubt give you more fruit than 4 crowded together would.

You can graft to get more varrieties in a smaller place rather than crowd the trees.


And then there are dwarfing rootstocks, which is another way for nurseries to sell more trees. For some the reduction in pruning is a big plus with dwarfs.

I agree that the Dave Wilson four to a hole is not a good long term way to grow fruit trees. Hell, when I plant two in a hole they are prone to leaning away from each other and tipping over after a few years, although I can think of ways to avoid this.

I had a couple of hours to work on it this weekend, and I’ve tripled the height of my raised beds. One of the trees had slimy, wet mud just coating two or three of the roots, so I’m glad I pulled them up. I dug a small ditch all the way back to the fence, but no further since I didn’t have enough time. I was just trying to get enough drainage going to give myself more time.

Well, when I checked this morning, the small ditch was completely full of water. Hopefully I get more time and good weather this week to do some more digging, but there’s more rain forecasted. I’ll have to remember to post an update photo when the drainage is to my liking!

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The ditch worked really well.

The neighbors saw that I had started digging a drainage ditch to save my trees. Since I didn’t make it all the way through the back yard, the ditch was constantly filled with water. They felt so bad for me that they called the plumber back out and fixed the leak! Apparently, they didn’t realize it was so bad. So now the ground will start desaturating, and my trees will be so much happier (alive).

The leak was a very small fracture in the supply line that was slow enough for them not to notice an increase in water usage. I feel very relieved now, though.


That is great news. Thank you for updating us.