Being water wise was killing my plant. - How to drain a water logged garden

by Les Boucher
(Sanctuary Point,NSW,Australia)

A few months back I built a new raised garden bed to take a couple of Dwarf apple trees (one Pink Lady and a Granny Smith)as both are required for cross pollination.

My trouble started with the ground that I built the beds on was sloping and has a clay base with a thin layer of soil over the top.
As usual I spread some gypsum (clay breaker) around, dug it into the top layer and laid newspaper down. Over this I placed a thick layer of compost covered by another layer of newspaper and then sugarcane mulch. After waiting a couple of weeks, I planted my two trees.

Tree number one took off and hasn't looked back while tree number two, the Granny Smith, started to sulk. It gave out a few small leaves which curled up and started to go brown around the edges. I should add that The Granny was on the lower end of the slope but still far enough up the slope to allow water to run out of the end of the garden bed. I let it sulk for a month or two hoping that it would come right. In the meantime we had rain after rain.

I decided that it was time to look at the tree and see what was happening. I have a handy little tool which allows me to check light, PH value and water content. I stuck it in the ground and the PH was spot on. I then tried the water content and the needle zoomed past the highest reading (10) and would have reached 100 if that had been on the scale. The ground was water logged at that end of the garden even with the drainage.

To fix the problem I purchased two bags of a cheap potting mix from the local supermarket which was, in the main, sand and dug it in around (and just out from the roots) of the tree. I then dug a trench about 1 meter (3ft) from the tree and laid down a piece of agricultural pipe and covered it over with the wet soil.
I'm happy to report that my Granny Smith has now started to put out some leaves and to encourage more root growth I have watered it with some seasol which has it up and singing.

Sometimes we get carried away with no dig gardens and forget just how much moisture is retained. If your plants are looking a little sick....check the moisture level of your soil and, if you need to, put in a bag of sand or cheap potting mix to help with the drainage.

Comments for Being water wise was killing my plant. - How to drain a water logged garden

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Jun 09, 2010
Since writing this.....
by: Les Boucher

Since writing this my "Pink lady" has produced one apple about the size of an apricot but then again, it is the first year since planting so the apple has been removed to allow the tree to put all its energy into growing a good root system so that it can feed its self through the winter and summer months. The Granny Smith that I wrote about has come good and is covered in buds as is the Pink Lady.I look forward to a feast of apples next season.

This afternoon (the temp got up to a massive 11deg is winter here in Australia) I was out planting Garlic around my Peach and Nectarine trees so that when spring and summer arrive the scent given off by the garlic will help to confuse the Queensland Fruit Fly and help keep them away from my lovely fruit.I have three rows of garlic circling each tree so, not only will I have fruit but also plenty of garlic for cooking and storing. I have also planted chives and nasturtium's and chives around my APPLE trees.Once again these will also be used in salads etc.

My Peach and Nectarine trees will both be sprayed with a Bordeaux mixture over winter (while dormant) to deter and fungicidal problems that may show its head. For information of Bordeaux spray you may like to have a look at the following link....

I guess this just goes to prove that if you are in touch with what is happening in your garden then, you can overcome most problems simply without going to a great deal of expense.

Jul 04, 2011
by: Molly

Maybe in my next life, I'll garden in Australia or New Zealand. I sure as hell hope so.

Jul 23, 2015
5 years on
by: Les Boucher

Here we are five years on since I first posted this article and, the trees are thriving.

Being on dwarf stock, the Pink Lady has only reached two meters high and, being espaliered it is about 4 meters across. This year it was so full of fruit, that I was giving apples away to friends and neighbours. The Granny Smith is still only a small tree, but it is hanging in there and producing a small amount of fruit every year.

My banana trees also give me bunches of fruit. The nectarine, orange, Lemon, Lime are all producing quality fruit. I did lose my dwarf peach but that will be replaced this weekend.

I hope that this encourages others, no matter how small their property, to plant out some dwarf fruiting stock. These trees can even be planted in a pot on a balcony if that is all the room that you have available.

Aug 29, 2015
Good drainage helps plants NEW
by: ~ Megan

Where have you been Les?

5 years on... and still growing a great garden by the sounds of it. I trip over the ditch to Sydney from Wellington NZ several times a year to see son and family. Going again this Oct. They have bought a house in Hornsby and I tackle the garden head on when I'm there. It's sand, sand and rock! But there are fences, so espalier dwarf fruit trees will be my next project - I like the idea, especially with small trees being easier to harvest. Thanks Les, hope to hear more from you and your gardening endeavours.

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