Well, we finally did it!! After a long 3-day weekend of 12-hr workdays, about half of our trees are now in the ground.
Three Days of Tractor Work
Day 1: Dig and lay irrigation lines. Hard caliche clay soil made this take much longer than initially estimated. You can see on the video how every scoop moved the tractor around!
Day 2: Grade most of the day, then freak out because we only started digging the tree holes around 4pm and the tractor rental was only supposed to be for two days.
Day 3: Extend tractor rental and spend all day digging holes for the trees we have, plus holes for trees we plan to plant. The amount of time and pain saved by using the tractor vs. digging with a shovel makes it worth the trouble of doing it now, even if we end up just filling in an extra hole or two. Then prep the backfill for the tropical trees, make sure everything is at the right height, and get them in the ground!
Planting Tropical Trees in Phoenix
We learned a lot about how to plant tropical trees in Arizona through this process. The main concern is drainage, since our soil is so clay-heavy. The key is digging a hole 2x bucket width, plus 1/3 deeper than the soil the bucket (for the extra drainage space). Put a layer of 2-3” lava rock on the bottom of the hole and set the plant from the pot on that. Then instead of using native soil to backfill, you need a wheelbarrow full of 1/3 quarter minus lava rock, 1/3 compost mulch, and 1/3 native soil all mixed together. Then backfill the hole with two scoops of that mix plus one scoop of coconut coir mixed into the hole. Be aware tropical root balls can be fragile, so take EXTRA care when carefully removing them from the pot - it probably should be a two-person job. We lost our Sapodilla because the root ball completely fell apart coming out of the pot. Once the tree is situated at ground level, fill the hole with water while backfilling around the tree. The result should be porous enough to allow water to drain from around the roots without issue, so your tropical trees are happy!
Tropicals we planted include:
- Blue Java Banana
- Dwarf Nam Wah Banana
- Ice Cream Banana
- Plantain (to be replaced - previous versions were decimated by chickens and a hose...)
- Pineapple Guava hedge
- Chiku Sapodilla (died)
- Alfonzo Mango
- White Thai Guava
- Christmas Loquat
- Barbados Cherries
- Black Surinam Cherries
- Strawberry Tree
Because they didn’t get in the ground before winter, in spring we also are going to plant our:
- Joey Avocado
- Ettinger Avodado
- Macadamia Nut
- And a new Tikal Sapodilla to replace the one we lost.
Citrus Planting in Arizona
Take one look around and you can easily tell that Phoenix is prime citrus-growing country. Oranges, grapefruit, and lemons are so plentiful around here that when I moved to Missouri and then Ohio for college, I felt it was positively criminal when I had to pay money to buy one at the store. So planting citrus trees here obviously is a lot less complicated than the tropicals. They love the native soil, so you don’t have to do any legwork preparing the backfill. Simply dig your hole twice the width of the pot, then place the tree at- or a little above-grade so it doesn’t sink, and backfill with native soil, adding water as you go.
Citrus we planted in the Biergarten include:
- Tango Mandarin, “Cutie”
- Meyer Lemon
- Finger Lime
- Moro Blood Orange
- Meiwa Kumquat
- Tahitian Pomelo
Because citrus is SO plentiful in Arizona, we have done a lot of exploring to find unique and unusually delicious varieties so that we will be able to convince people to buy them once we’re up and running. But we have found getting our hands on a tree we really want can be VERY difficult (and/or expensive) at times! Especially citrus, because of disease-protective restrictions on importing to Arizona, everything has to be grown in-state, so the selection is often more restrictive than we want.
Find out next post about the crazy adventure we had getting our hands on a Finger Lime and a Tahitian Pomelo! And our fun tree experiments, the Pink Wampee and Acai Palm!