Planting into wet soil


I need to start planting some stuff soon but the area in which I’ll be working is still pretty wet. The soil is silt loam. Everything I’ll be planting is tolerant of wet conditions but my concern is damage to the soil. What is the best method for getting plants into wet ground? For smaller transplants my guess is just to insert the shovel, push forward, and then stick the plant in. Is minimal disturbance in wet ground the way to go?


50 years ago we put thousands of tobacco transplants into rows in the ground…with a wooden peg (when wet conditions abounded). Sometimes thousands in one day, with sunburned necks and tops of bare feet.


That’s interesting… did you see the documentary called LOOK AND SEE about Wendell Berry?


No, should I?


Yes, for sure. It’s very good. I’d recommend it to anyone. Your mention of tobacco made me think of it.


Does anyone else have any other advice on planting in wet ground? I guess I should mention that the water table in some areas is at the surface. Is the glazing problem mainly associated with more clayey soils? Should I just wait a while or is minimal disturbance planting into saturated ground doable? I don’t yet know when the water typically drops as this is my first time on this ground.


My thoughts are; that planting with a shovel,in wet soil with minimal disturbance , just enough to get the rootball in the soil ,is not a problem.
Using equipment , such as a tractor is a problem on wet soil .
My soil is a heavy red clay. I stay off of it with a tractor when it’s wet


Yes, I agree wet soil does not welcome new plants. Let it dry and your new trees will have a better chance.


We’ve had to plant trees in mud before. This may be another year of doing it, if the soil doesn’t dry.

We’ve actually had to plant while it was raining. We just wore rain coats and mud boots. You just dig up mud, stuff the roots in the hole and scrape the mud back in the hole. No need to water the roots in :grin:

I never noticed any drawback to doing this, other than the mess. These trees are up on raised plantings though.


I’ll be doing this as well. It’s easier digging in the mud but I prefer harder ground and more muscular work over the mess of soggy soil any day.


If I waited for my clay soil to be dry before planting, I’d be out in the middle of July or August. For all of my plantings, I create a large, wide bowl type hole(like a wok) and rough up the sides a bit. Some Oklahoma University ag video I watched a while back mentioned it, so it must have some science behind it.


Thanks everyone. This is a new piece of ground for me. I always wondered how accurate the soil surveys were. This is supposed to be a moderately well drained silt loam with an upper limit of the water table at around 2’… it’s currently at 0’. Luckily my big numbers going into this area are persimmon and pawpaw. This field at the bottom of a steep hill hadn’t been mowed in a couple of years and persimmons are all over. It was interesting digging some of them. Some of them had put down deep, vertical taproots and the rest decided to go lateral at around 4-6" below ground.


Where is it you’re now living/trying to plant?


It is just west of where the Little Sac River enters the eastern arm of Stockton Lake in Polk county, MO. It adjoins Conservation land on the north and east. My existing plants are just north of Bona a bit. I guess this is a good learning experience… I had for the most part not given much thought to things like drainage, texture, water table, soil profile, etc… Even looking into springs/seeps and wondering how much effect they are having is something new for me.


There are soils that can be worked wet and others that make a total mess. I won’t try planting wet into certain clay soils. On the other hand the clay loam I have now could be planted in standing in water with no serious long term issues.

The biggest issue is working soil wet destroys the soils structure. It runs together. That can make for poor drainage and lack of air around the roots of a newly planted tree. If the area continues to be wet that could be an issue. On soil that drains well you’ll likely get away with it. On poorly drained soil maybe not.


It’s not supposed to rain here for at least a week - I’ll be waiting to dig in hopes of the mud drying out


That’s what I’m hoping for too.


Missouri…been 40 years since I’ve been there. Anyhow, I am unsure of what further advice…if the summertime water table is indeed within a foot of the surface…you may have a problem.
Even if so, raised beds can solve such issues. But would be expensive on a large scale.


Why not tarp/tent the area and guide runoff away from your planting location ahead of time? Depending on your terrain you can create a drier area than you would have otherwise.


That’s an interesting idea. I’ve already diverted the readily apparent spring down to a small creek bed. That was not a problem… only like 100ish ft. I think that maybe helped since it has been putting out a steady 2-4 gpm since I first measured it last fall.

The area where I’ll be planting at the low elevation is a fairly good size… 400’ long and half that wide. I’m thinking that it is just a seasonally high water table. Possibly with a fragipan. I really am interested to know how much the water recedes over summer. I have no idea at this point.

Luckily, persimmon is at the top of my list for numbers going in. I think they’ll be fine. I’m just going to plant the other species and see how they fare. I’ve made the requisite lists of wet tolerance/intolerance and will plant based on it. Tolerant goes at the bottom and intolerant goes on the hill. I’m definitely going to try jujube in both spots.

Now I understand why folks like Bill Mollison stressed the importance of observation for a year before planting.