PLANTING FRUIT TREES ON RAISED BEDS

I grew up on a farm in SE Missouri in the 1940s. Even when Dad was still farming with horses and mules, he planted on raised rows about 6 inches above the middles. Except for no-till planting, planting on raised rows has been the practice on row crop farms up to the present whether the farms are in Missouri, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, or Texas. Raised rows provide good drainage and friable soil that enhance the germination of seeds and the growth of the plant. Plowing to increase the height of the raised row provides support for taller plants like corn.

The first fruit trees I planted at the two homes we owned in El Paso, Texas were planted on level ground. The apricot and peach trees lived about four years before becoming diseased and starting to die. On the other hand, the pecan tree I planted in 1985 on level ground grew over 3 stories tall in the next 20 years. The peach and nectarine trees I planted in raised beds in the 1990s were still growing and producing when we moved to Rockport, Texas in 2007.

I realized from my reading and observations of the peach orchards in the Ozark rolling foothills of Arkansas and Missouri that healthy fruit trees liked good drainage. In El Paso I used commercial timbers for the raised beds making them about 6’x6’ because of limited space.

In Aransas County, Texas, I have used cut Live Oak limbs to outline about an 8×8 foot area to raise my fruit tree beds about a foot above the level ground. Here in South Texas near the salt water, about the only fruit trees that will live are citrus trees like lime, orange, and grapefruit. The trees that have grown the tallest and bear abundant fruit are planted on the top of a 1950s oil exploration berm that is about 2-3 feet above the level ground. For instance, the 3 foot Mexican Lime tree we brought in a pot from El Paso is now 20 foot wide where I have not pruned it to keep it from over-shadowing the garden. It was over 20 foot high until we had two days of 26 degree weather back in January, 2017. I cut 6 feet out of the top that had lost its leaves. It has grown over 3 feet back. Mexican Limes have the highest brix but are very painfully intimate with their thousands of thorns.

-Herman Green

6/9/2017    Gardening Know-How