Planting your tree

Planting involves a point of debate. You may know that welcoming other new plants (say, a perennial or a rosebush) to your yard with amended soil is a good idea. The usual advice is to dig the hole and mix some of the native soil with some good organic matter, on the grounds that few of us have fabulous, perfect native soil in our yards. Should you do this for an incoming tree as well? Actually, no — not because digging a tree-size hole is a lot of work. And not because anyone assumes that your yard has fabulous, perfect native soil. A tree's roots are eventually going to expand well beyond the planting hole you make for them. They need to go deep and wide over time.

dt^NG.' If you make the initial hole full of wonderful, organically rich soil, tree roots may never journey beyond the bounds of your planting hole. And journey beyond it they must if the tree is to grow and eventually reach its mature size. So do the roots of your new tree a favor and don't coddle them with amended, improved soil in their youth. They have to adapt to their lot in life!

If you're installing a tree on a lot that was recently built upon, improving the soil is necessary. You can pretty safely assume that the soil is not only compacted (from all the construction equipment running over and over it) but also of poor quality. In fact, the topsoil may have been scraped off long ago, when the site was being prepared. That leaves subsoil, which is often lousy, poorly draining, and maybe full of rocks. Therefore, make all planting holes as big as you can (bigger than you would otherwise), remove all rocks and debris, and then backfill with a combination of that subsoil and some good organic matter such as topsoil, loam, compost, and/or dehydrated manure.

In the next few sections, I give you details on how to handle trees depending on how they come to you: as a container tree, a bareroot tree, or a balled-and-burlapped tree. For now, though, here's the basic information you need on how to plant a tree. Just follow these steps:

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