Growing Trees in Oldham County, Shelby County and Jefferson County
Chestnut was present in pockets in these counties, as shown by some surviving old log cabins with chestnut in the logs. Moving south towards the Knobs, there are rare old chestnut “Ghosts” still standing. And Crider Silt Loam, as a soil type, can grow chestnut well. Crider Silt loam is widely present in Oldham County. It has several important characteristics: the percentage of clay in the upper four feet is 27% (<30%); the depth of soil is excellent, being more than >100 inches (>48 inches); the Forest Site index for N. Red Oak (with some of the same preferences as chestnut) is 84 (desirable is >75), and the hydrological group is “moderately well-drained” and of course, the soil pH is moderately acidic (and certainly not alkaline.) All this information allows us to match other soils to these characteristics, using the Websoil Survey. The orchard below, at Meades Landing, planted in 2008 has had chestnut grow at an average of 3 ft. per year.
Equally important in site selection is the history of land use. For example, if the top soil has been stripped and sold, that makes a significant difference. COMPACTION is the major result of many human activities, including pasturing large and heavy animals, especially cows. There isn’t a simple easy field measure for compaction, and for land with extensive prior agricultural use, subsoiling to reduce compaction may be indicated. Plowing does not reduce deep compaction and in fact may create a “plow layer” which holds water and reduces drainage. Plowing also may increase weed problems unless combined with sowing tree compatible ground covers. (See Ashbourne Farms page.)
The size of site also matters. The best sites are simple rectangles, about 250 x 150 in dimensions. This gives 6 rows of about 200 ft, and allows for enough space around the rows (within the deer fence) that mowing is easier.
Evaluation of your Site(s):
There are several steps that are simplified if you have computer access, as follows:
1. Go to your address on Google Earth. Choose several potential sites that are at least 240 x 150 ft in dimension. Note the GPS coordinates of your potential site(s).
2. Go to the Websoil survey at http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/HomePage.htm. Enter your address or the coordinates for a possible site. then define the AREA OF INTEREST (AOI). This will enable you to see a soil map, and learn about soil characteristics. The Websoil survey provides a rich amount of detail, but you want to examine specifically forest land uses, and vegetative productivity for forest, soil physical characteristics, soil characteristics, and hydrological groups to get the information above. You can also use Soil Survey books for your County, though the Websoil Survey seems to more current. If you need help, your consultant forester and local NRCS office and extension service can give you information and help with site evaluation.
Two Sample Orchards are show below to illustrate this approach: The Davis Farm (2012) and the MacLean Orchard (2008)
The Davis Farm, Hempbridge Road, Shelby County.
Note that there are a number of rectangular sites along the tree lines, and the distance to the ponds will determine the access to water. You can see the coordinates on the map. In addition, there is a tool that allows you to measure distance from one point to another so that you can assess possible layouts. The site is being developed to the N. of the narrow tree buffer line.
Below is the soil map for the Davis Farm from the Web Soil Survey. You can see the faint lines and soil designations like NhB, and LoC. Each of these soil types has particular features. These are physical characteristics, like % of Clay, and suitability for different uses, like forest land productivity.
Once you settle on a site, you can then do a formal soil test if you wish, through your extension office, but you should also dig a two foot hole, and evaluate drainage (fill it and time how long it takes for water to drain) and compaction.
Here is a table of the % clay in each soil type for the top 48″, so that you can compare LoC and NhB.
The Meades Landing Orchard, Oldham County.
Note the position of Row 1, Position 1, placed on the Google Map. The depth of the site is slightly restricted for 150 ft, and shorter rows would needed to achieve the 220 sites.
The soil map shows that the entire field site is Crider Silt loam with different slopes (CrB, CrC.)
This shows the range of characteristics reported under Physical properties, which includes the range of Clay content, and a measure of soil density called “moist bulk density.”