Seasonally wet vs waterlogged

The common wisdom is to spend a year observing new land before planting anything; since I’ve been a container gardener this was fine with me, and we took note of potential orchard sites from spring last year until now. The areas I thought were good in other aspects (sun exposure, slope, etc.) and well-draining based on soil composition and casual field tests I marked off for various trees. This year, however, as the ground thaws and it rains, there is one area I had planted some trees on mm111 and euro plums on mariana (and had plans for more) that is so wet if you dig a hole 12-16" down it will fill up with water. The ground feels fairly squishy although it’s not muddy. This is a place that was absolutely parched last summer. At our previous home across the state we were spoiled by a large, extremely well-drained yard that even during spring thaw and “mud season” was never sloppy.

I’m not sure what to chalk up to “seasonal” water or if this is representative of a larger issue. This is NE Ohio. We’re in for some much warmer temps, but a few of the trees I had wanted to put back there arrived today. How wet is the ground during your mud season? How long does it last? Do any of your trees tolerate it fine?

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I have an area of my back yard that had standing water for weeks in the spring. I planted a medlar and a cornelian cherry there and mulched everything well. I kept adding mulch and now, about 7-8 years later I no longer have a problem with standing water there.

Your ground is still not draining properly due to winter. My bet is you won’t really have much problems with the standing water once the ground warms sufficiently to allow for better drainage.

Either way, add (hardwood) mulch. It will help with the dryness in summer and the water in spring.



Thank you! That is reassuring. I did mulch the trees heavily.

If it were me, I would not plant fruit trees in a hole where when you dig down 1 ft, water just fills up. It sounds like a peculiar spot where water is pooling due to the lay of the land or there may be some underground spring nearby.

Depending on the tree species and rootstock, you might be to get away with it on rare occasion, but in general I would say the tree (and especially most fruit trees) would probably grow in a stunted manner if it’s roots were in water for prolonged time. Some plants (like caneberries, sage) can outright die immediately due to Phytophthora (meaning: “the plant-destroyer”) root rot being prevalent in very moist soil.

I would advise only planting something like Sweetbay Magnolia (a flowering tree) in a damp spot.

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I planted my first orchard at a site like this. Sopping wet in spring, nicely drained in summer. Things grew great there. If youre really concerned Id maybe just stay away from rootstocks with a susceptibility to collar rot like m7.

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I don’t favor any underground spring since it is very dry there from May onward (at least based on observation over last year). It was really parched in the summer.

Thank you. I’m hopeful since I’m not keen on digging up what I already put in.

Your spot might be more dry than the one I have on my property. I have a very wet spot and in the summer it gets less wet, but soggy/squishy. A pear tree planted there by previous owner is very stunted. Best of luck!

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I think the only variable would be if last year was an unusually dry season (which, maybe?).

Seasonal melt-off on a bowl shaped piece of property. I just started planting out this portion of the orchard last fall, but I don’t anticipate any problems. This happens annually and doesn’t last more than a week or two. As MDL17576 says, just be sure to choose an appropriate rootstock. I can tell you later this spring how last falls transplants have done here.

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“…so wet if you dig a hole 12-16” down it will fill up with water. The ground feels fairly squishy…" sounds a lot like my location in the right now and in the spring in general. My “solution” has been to plant on mounds. All the apples and peaches in that corner of the yard are on mounds. They are not old; the oldest is the peach ~ 6 years old. I have no long term experience but I can say that they have tolerated the regularly wet spring. We will see what happens when we get the once a decade or so 5 straight days of rain which would probably take another 5 or so days to dry out.

Oh and the apple roots are a mix of m111 interstem, genevas and an m7. One peach was a gift that arrived in a stark bros box and the other peach is seedling gratuitously provided by the previous owners.


have you dug a hole or used a soil auger to get quite deep?

I have encountered spots where the top 1-2 foot of soil is really nice. But below is an incredibly compacted layer. and below that layer is un-compacted soil again.

I found a spot where there used to be a fencing pole and some cherry tree’s 10+ foot away had thick roots growing towards and than down the hole. Same for a blackberry 4 foot away. The hole was filled with roots. Because the compacted layer was to hard to penetrate.

the hole filling up with water in the “wet season” might be because of an compacted layer, slowing down drainage.

and the same compacted layer could “break” the capillary effect in soil during the dryer season.


I am in northeast Ohio and my ground is probably wetter than yours. Right now if I dug 6" down it would fill up with water. My topsoil is waterlogged all spring every year. Marianna 2624 is your best bet for plums in wet ground. Myro is also good. I have some Marianna in wet areas that have survived for 10 years, though I have lost a few in the lowest of low spots. That being said, I plant all stone fruit in mounds now and the trees do much better. Apples and pears seem fine in my location no matter what.

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Thank you. My site is not nearly this wet. There are some lower areas that are wetter but overall at least no standing water (ever).

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Thanks for the good info. I thought about doing mounds but was so hesitant because the same area was so dry in summer. Maybe with heavy mulching it would be different.

I have not, maybe 18-20 inches would be the deepest we dug. This is a good point. We are planning on putting up a fence so I will certainly find out this summer.

Hello fellow NE Ohioan! This is reassuring.

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It goes down really fast:

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Ours dried out over the last several days also and was dry enough to easily plant the rest of the bareroot trees I had waiting. It gives me a little more confidence that my initial assessment of the soil was correct.