Planting into wet soil


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.


1’ would not be good but I honestly have no idea what the range is for summers. I’m going to dig some more pits and find out.

While I was digging the first pit I encountered some earthworms maybe 6-8" down. Overnight the pit filled and hasn’t drained. If the groundwater is at the surface, how can worms be in there? I thought that they come to the surface when the soil is saturated?


Earthworms would need some air and not total saturation. So, maybe your planting spots aren’t as bad as you’re describing (earlier).
Most of us have had soils all winter that are almost saturated…but once grass and trees begin to grow, you may find out it’s not so wet anymore?
The thought to wait a year to learn about your location…good advice.

I plant in pots and grow for a spell if I have nursery stock and am not ready to plant it right away. Usually that means grow until fall in a pot…but could mean a few years.


Here ,in my red clay, say if i dig a hole during a wet rainy period, the surface water will fill the hole swell up the clay ,and stay full of water for maybe a month .
But say after a week of dry weather you could dig a hole right next to the one that is full of water, and it will not have water in it until a rain.


My point being , a hole full of water , does not always accurately represent the water table.


Another option is to use wood chips, although adding them a year ago would have been better. Anyway, going forward, wood chips absorb moisture and hold it (think orchids) then release it back. As they break down they provide haven for earthworms avoiding flooding conditions by coming to the surface w/o being picked off by birds. And, they add volume/height to the surface and with time, resulting in a well drained area.


Oh… That’s interesting. I hadn’t considered that possibility.

@JustAnne4 I like that suggestion. The city here sells rough mulch for $7 a cubic yard. Definitely need to go get some more.


i have heavy clay soil, full of rocks that drains very slow… its a lot of work to dig a big enough hole here to plant a tree or bush , so 2 years ago i started planting everything in mounds. i put down cardboard to smother the grass then a little soil then the tree roots and cover that with about 12in of soil. tamp that down well and cover the soil with 3in. of wood chip mulch. i also stake the tree well so the roots have time to grow thru the cardboard and anchor in the soil. done 15 bushes and trees like this and they have grown 2xs faster than the ones i planted in holes in the ground. the only thing is you will have to get soil to plant in but for me its been worth the investment. :wink: