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To amend soil or no?


DAVEinMB

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Long story short, I have a washy (Robusta) that is planted in pretty much all top soil. The reason is because I'm an idiot however it has seemed to like it so far. It was planted in April 2019 so it has spent a decent amount of time where it's at. I've amended the soil and added French drains in areas around the tree (shown in yellow in the photos) but I don't think they're close enough to have an impact on it. Adding gravel and sand will be tricky with all the roots but it can be done. I've also mulled over the idea of adding plants that will help suck up any standing water such as sabal minor but I'm not sure how much they will help in the winter. I would hate to lose this tree to wet feet once it has some decent height to it.

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Looks like the elevated planter will help a lot.

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I'm a believer in amending soil from above.  If you mulch heavily it will eventually break down and enrich the soil.  No need to disturb the roots.  

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Jon Sunder

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1 hour ago, Allen said:

Looks like the elevated planter will help a lot.

Agree w/ Allen.. The fact it is in a planter, a bit above the existing soil grade, should be enough to help drain away any excess runoff from around it .. Looks quite healthy which is a good sign it likes it's spot, and what it is planted in. If you choose to add stuff to the soil,  I'd use what nature puts down, ie:  any Pine needles, other leaves that are shed in the fall.. BTW, despite that nagging, old rumor, brown, shed Pine needles do little boost the acidity of the soil, so no need to be worried about that.

These things can sprout pretty much any place you can think of.. cracks in a driveway/cement, next to ponds, or in extremely poor, rarely enriched soil.. and do fine, as long as they have access to moisture. No need to baby them.

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@Allen @Fusca @Silas_Sancona thanks for the input! You guys are awesome

I poked around a bit near the base of the tree and even though the soil is all pretty moist (as expected) the roots are bright white so i guess I'll let it be 

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There's a thread a few down from this one where we were talking about how much Pennywort can dry out soil.  Wouldn't cost anything to give it a shot.

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2 hours ago, Keys6505 said:

There's a thread a few down from this one where we were talking about how much Pennywort can dry out soil.  Wouldn't cost anything to give it a shot.

As much as I know that stuff would work it gets so out of hand so quickly I would give myself a coronary trying to keep up with it haha 

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From what I can see since its already planted in an elevated "planter" spot, and you appear to have a good amount of sand there, I highly doubt you need to worry about wet feet. If that was a low lying area that flooded with red pan clay.. that would be a different story. 

 

 

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30 minutes ago, Dartolution said:

From what I can see since its already planted in an elevated "planter" spot, and you appear to have a good amount of sand there, I highly doubt you need to worry about wet feet. If that was a low lying area that flooded with red pan clay.. that would be a different story. 

 

 

My main concern is the amount of top soil right around the base of the tree. When I built the retaining wall I used top soil to fill in the whole area not thinking about the drainage issues I'd be causing.  That stuff holds onto moisture like a sponge. There's about a 4' diameter circle of top soil around the base, more in some areas. My initial thought is that since the fronds are all pretty close to the ground, the umbrella there creating is keeping large amounts of rain water away from the base. If that's the case I may start seeing issues as it gains height. I dunno

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How long has this plan been in place?  If it’s been a year or two I wouldn’t worry about it. If you want to improve the drainage add some good mulch. It will break down and naturally improve the soil. 
 

if the palm isn’t showing signs of distress. Messing around with it will most likely do more harm than good. 

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1 hour ago, Chester B said:

How long has this plan been in place?  If it’s been a year or two I wouldn’t worry about it. If you want to improve the drainage add some good mulch. It will break down and naturally improve the soil. 
 

if the palm isn’t showing signs of distress. Messing around with it will most likely do more harm than good. 

It's been there just shy of a year and a half. The root system on those things is unreal. I've been finding roots 4+ feet from the base when planting other things around it. 

@Fusca also suggested amending at surface level with mulch. that's the route I'll take rather than digging and disturbing what's good and established. 

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Amending with mulch and even gypsum if you have heavy soil would probably be your best bet. But I agree with the other posts, if the palm isn't showing signs of distress, and from your pictures I don't think it is, I wouldn't worry too much about it. 

It would MOST DEFINITELY do more harm than good to start shoving a shovel or tiller into its root system. 

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12 hours ago, Dartolution said:

Amending with mulch and even gypsum if you have heavy soil would probably be your best bet. But I agree with the other posts, if the palm isn't showing signs of distress, and from your pictures I don't think it is, I wouldn't worry too much about it. 

It would MOST DEFINITELY do more harm than good to start shoving a shovel or tiller into its root system. 

what is some good mulch to use? I have spread thin layer of wood chips all over my garden and i also spread out dried straw, leafs and other dry compost on top, is this a good way to ammend the soil over the years?

Edited by Palmfarmer
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Hi Palmfarmer,

The best mulch for improving soil would consists of coarse woodchips from natural sources (e.g., arborist woodchips, don't get that colored stuff that often consists of pieces of treated wood used for industrial/commercial purposes). When in doubt, look for the Mulch and Soil Council (MSC) certification. Adding straw, leaves, and some dry compost is a bonus. It'll take years but it'll gradually improve your soil quality.

~ S

Edited by Swolte
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17 hours ago, Swolte said:

Hi Palmfarmer,

The best mulch for improving soil would consists of coarse woodchips from natural sources (e.g., arborist woodchips, don't get that colored stuff that often consists of pieces of treated wood used for industrial/commercial purposes). When in doubt, look for the Mulch and Soil Council (MSC) certification. Adding straw, leaves, and some dry compost is a bonus. It'll take years but it'll gradually improve your soil quality.

~ S

how about putting on a good layer of Cow Manure on top, to speed up the process of breakdown? 

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Just now, Palmfarmer said:

how about putting on a good layer of Cow Manure on top, to speed up the process of breakdown? 

Generally speaking, I don't use cow manure - it's too hot and can burn things easily.  Chicken manure is a better choice.

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Ben Rogers

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