The Pampered Princess Plant Dilemma

I have around ten new trees to put into my yard and as I’m discovering, trees are little dainty princesses when they’re young. Especially avocado’s. The loss of my Fuerte a month after putting it into the ground the previous year has me holding off on putting the new young trees in without creating an adequate site for them.

Previously I’d cut into the hillside at an angle then layered with well composted mulch and gypsum soaked the hole before planting. I also dug a drainage channel from the low side of the hole to further ensure water did not pool in the hard clay base. Fortunately my elite photoshop skills have provided you with the following pics to explain. (Yes I can feel the admiration, no my photoshopping prowess is not for hire)


Most of the trees are doing okay, however I wonder what their root system is like and if they’d be faring better if mounded high as some sites suggest for clay soils. Due to the gradient of my slope this was not feasible as the mound would just wash away and expose the roots.

Reading up on the hopes, dreams and desires of young fruit trees leads to a lot of confusion. Here are some of the fine examples.

– Loves Full Sun (Please paint tree with white non toxic paint as it gets sunburn)
– Protect from wind. “I need space to grow but can you please put stuff up all around me. Oh and it mustn’t block the full sun, I need that to give me sunburn”.
– Every one of them likes moist, well drained soil. “I’m thirsty all the time, No it’s too much!” (So my dense clay isn’t ideal)
– Then there’s the nursery labeling. They want to make sales to the urban market so they state the lowest height of the tree. Some of my tree labels state 4-6m
A quick check shows they usually grow 10-15 metres. Growing on a hillside means that to ensure all trees get their share of sun I have to put the smaller trees uphill and put deciduous trees in front of evergreens if I can.
– PH Levels. They all have varying preferences and most work within a range however some plants may not fruit without their ideal range (Eg acid loving blueberries!)

I’m making it out to be impossible to grow stuff when most of my trees are doing okay, however when you’re a control freak with projects like I am, the loss of $40-$50 trees because of poorly thought out planting becomes frustrating and expensive.


Enter the tree planter boxes.

I built these ~ 500x500x350(H) from stripping down those 3m long hardwood pallets as seen in the Things I’ve Shoved In My Car post.

Yes I am aware that the one box has all four of its sides on the outside and looks uniform and neat. It however is the mistake. I wanted the panels of wood on the inside, well at least the rear one. That way when I fill the box, the growing medium pushes the wood against the upright posts rather than relying on the screws alone to hold the side panels on, which would be the case if they were on the outside. I’m all about function over form! So my design went with the back and front panels on the inside and as the box ages ideally only maintenance on the side panels may be in order which will only involve a brace on the outside.

I’m hoping that the invasive Wandering Jew can be kept away from the trees as well as the creeping vines that make their way up any vertical surface.

Another bonus is that I can drop and move the boxes around the backyard to get an idea of tree placement rather than dragging the trees in their pots /bags around and stressing them.

I can adjust nutrient levels within each box to match what that specific tree prefers or requires.

These planter boxes are the reason I’m currently doing my mega composting binge. I need bulk growing material to fill them. All up they’ll take around a cubic metre of growing medium to fill.

The plan is

-Place boxes where I want each tree and measure and check that each tree’s spacial requirements are met.

-Dig a hole and channel like I’d done previously (Refer awesome photoshop pics at top of page)

-Gypsum hole and surrounds. Place planter box over hole. Fill with composted material

-Plant tree so it sits just above ground level and individualise soil requirements. (Eg. Add sulphur to acid loving plants)

– Mulch and maintain

Down the track when funds avail themselves to me I intend on running a small drip irrigation hose around each tree under the mulch and running water via a programmable timer to them. The tree roots will eventually push through into the clay soil which will have broken up by then due to the gypsum and the earthworms getting to the pile of composting material that feeds down through the box. By then they won’t be pampered little saplings but mature hardened trees.