This sounds like gophers to me, they love apple roots. Have you seen any mounds around that area?
Lately I have been building raised beds (4 or 5 ft square) in the fall and filling them with a load of topsoil right on top of the existing sod. I’ll weed wack the area as close to the ground as possible first, but I haven’t been actually removing the sod. Then I plant the bare root tree in the spring. I’m not recommending this as a best practice, but it seems to work ok.
no gophers around here and moles can’t dig in my rocky soil. have voles some years but they stayed on the grass, under the snow in the winter.
i do the same. i layer bigger branches and smaller branches then a layer of horse manure w/ 6in of my soil mix on top. never have to water them once the plants establish themselves. saves on soil initially.
A part of the yard I put my fruit trees in has some drainage issues, which is why I put in the raised beds in the first place. It is also very heavy clay. By taking out the grass and loosening up some of the surrounding soil I made a pretty good mix of the native soil and the “raised bed soil” I used to fill the beds. I don’t know about the other people here, but I did not use a particularly rich mix to fill the raised beds.
Yes good idea, my beds are for other plants, when i do mound trees I often take native soil from a spot in the yard, and use in the mound, then fill the hole where I harvested soil with top soil. Often I just use top soil for the mound too as I realized my native soil is actually of higher quality than the organic top soil i was using! I’m lucky the soil here is fantastic, dark, often very black. My cottage has even richer soil, it is black hole black. The richest soil i ever saw.
I’m jealous! mine is the total opposite! i have to use a pick axe to break up the clay and pry the rocks out. its a big workout to plant a tree here. its a miracle i can get anything to grow.
Yeah that does sound bad, but you have done it which is really cool. At my cottage even though the soil is black gold, tree roots are everywhere and I have to get out the axe to clear a spot, so if the plant can’t compete well, it’s not going to make it. It’s bad I don’t care where you dig, roots as big as an arm are probably there.
i was lucky with that as i converted lawn into my orchard so no roots to deal with. I’ve got enough work just dealing w/ the soil conditions! my wife watches me digging out the rocks and amending the soil and she just shakes her head. got to love the hobby if you’re willing to work that hard for it.
At my cottage even the lawn has as many roots as anything else. Lot’s of 100 foot tall trees all around.
Another reason to remove grass is if you have one of the aggressive southern grasses like Bermuda. They’ll pull a lot of nutrients/water away from an establishing tree.
i lay cardboard over the grass before building the bed, to smother the grass. it breaks down pretty quickly after the grass dies and the dead grass feeds the plants in the raised bed.
Moose - I grow roughly half my trees in raised boxes due to heavy clay soil. Some of it (not all) is similar to you in that you need a pick ax to break the hard clay soil. It is too early for me to know 100% but for peaches raised boxes seem to be a success. I usually mix 20% to 40% processed manure in with the trees, and add gypsum also. I have planted roughly 10 fruit trees this year with six of them in boxes. Unfortunately I have been busy with work and sick both so I did not amend/mix the soil this year. It will be interesting to compare the results of amended vs unamended trees, I have maybe 4 or 5 apple trees in raised beds but they were planted last year, so too early to see if raised beds help for apples. I do not plant pears in raised beds, they seem to be able to thrive in the hard clay soil. Most of my beds are 4 x 4 - they vary in height from 10 inches to 12 inches. If I have time I try and dig down 1 to 2 feet below the box and amend that soil also. Unfortunately this year I am throwing trees in the boxes - but at least it was plowed prior to planting.
i have a apple and 3 cherries I’m planting in may in 16in. tall 4 x4 raised cedar beds. i plan to till down 6-12in with my front tine tiller to loosen the soil and remove as many rocks i can. then ill place the bed on that. 1st 6in. will be 3in. branches filled in w/ smaller branches and a 3in layer of horse manure topped with my premixed soil of coir mixed half in half with compost/ worm castings mix. . the coir should help w/ drainage and branches, manure and rotting sod should keep the nutrients and some moisture in the root zones. i have 5 other beds i grow veggies, and berries in that i set up this way some as old a 6yrs and i haven’t had to give any fertilizer or water to them. i only top dress w/ a in. of compost and cover the whole bed in 4in. of coarse hardwood sawdust, every spring. should work as well for these trees.
I have always been afraid to put straight horse manure in with my trees. Even mixed. I am going to put some on top of the soil for trees I plant but none directly mixed.
i mostly put it over the wood so the wood doesn’t draw N from the soil and to charge the soil w./ beneficial bacteria and fungi . i don’t mix it w/ the top 6in.of soil i put on top of it. its basically a hugelkulture system in a raised bed. i may have to modify it slightly to plant a tree in there.
I’m growing in my 8x4x3 foot raised bed 2 lemon trees and 2 avocado trees plus strawberries and a few pepper plants and some basil. As the tress get bigger then I will eliminate the other plants.