What should I do if I have heavy clay soil and want to plant fruit trees?

If you have heavy clay soil, we would recommend staying away from stone fruits which tend to like sandier soils that drain a little better - clay loam is fine, but any soil predominately clay spells trouble for peaches, sweet cherries, apricots, and plums (to a lesser degree). Apples or pears will perform the best in clay soils as they tend to be the most adaptable, but there are still a few methods you can try to improve soil conditions:

  1. Loosen up the soil using a shovel or garden fork to help aerate it, and add amendments such as compost, leaves, or grass clippings
  2. Apply gypsum to the soil to help alter the soil structure over time
  3. Build a berm above the soil with a more suitable soil and plant your tree into that to help it get established

If you are planting your tree directly into the clay soil, make sure to roughen up the sides of the hole with your shovel, otherwise the slicked down clay can trap excess water around the roots of your tree, and prevent the new baby roots from penetrating into the soil.