As a holding area

Many small scale fruit growers are familiar with “heeling in” bare root plants. Usually it includes digging a shallow trench, laying the trees or plants down with just their roots in the trench and covering. Although if a hard freeze is coming you might also cover the tops with a blanket, or even add some straw for insulation, heeling in is basically giving the roots the life support of earth without letting them get too comfy.


I’ve found that my water catchment ditch is the ideal place for heeling in plants. The walls give some protection from wind, and make a warm little microclimate by raying back heat from the day. Water that collects there seldom stays a puddle, but rather keeps the ground evenly moist between rains. It’s ideal.

The plants seem to approve too. I heeled in several extra three inch tall Beach Plums (Prunus maritima) there to hold until I could figure places for them, and a year later, there are more living and they are all healthier in the ditch than the ones I planted out in the dry sunny spots beach plums are supposed to like.

If you’d like to make your own holding area, I think that even a little swale would have similar effects as far as moisture collection goes. If you don’t want to move a lot of dirt, which I recommend, just piling up sticks, leaves, weeds and other such roughage (preferably on a hillside) when available will eventually build up to the same thing as I have.

It’s very helpful to have spots like this whenever time constrains planting your precious plants. It’s just one more way to reduce stress during their transit, bringing you that much closer to a healthy, established food forest.

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