New Red Maple nursery transplant

smallmouth1April 5, 2007

We just purchased a beautiful Red Maple (3" diameter, 9-10 feet tall) (Red Sunset cultivar) and will be planting it next week after the nursery delivers it. My father in law and I are digging the hole. Is it true that the width of the hole should be about 3 times the diameter of the root ball and then back fill the dirt? Also, how about soil amenities like manure, peat, fertilzer etc? Is that necessary/advisable? (We have sandy soil a bit on the gravelly side) Anyone have any suggestions? Thanks in advance!

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Yup, 3 times the width of the existing rootball and backfill with the soil you removed. Be sure to remove any wrappings that protect the rootball - twine, burlap, wire basket, etc. If any issues with drainage (not very likely in sandy soils), plant with the top of the rootball slightly higher than the soil level. Save the amendments as a mulch or top dressing (but skip the peat). Depending on the quality of your current soil, fertilizing may not be necessary. Best to have a soil test done to determine if any deficiences are present and then address those specifically. If using compost as a mulch, it will supply most all necessary nutrients and fertilizing can usually be ommitted. Established trees and shrubs rarely require any supplemental fertilization. And make sure it is well watered through this growing season, deeply but infrequently.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2007 at 11:25AM
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Thank you for your valuable insight. I have also heard that you should not "chop" (with a shovel or rototill) up the soil in the bottom of the hole, leave as is. Apparently, it can cause the tree to sink? It seems logical though because it seems it would aid the tap root in growing downward. Our soil, though sandy and gravelly, has a tendency to compact. (the lawn area gets hard as a rock in the summer). What's your opinion on that (and other forum members of course)?

    Bookmark   April 6, 2007 at 9:25PM
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I'm not particularly familiar with your soil as I have wonderful red clay...but if sinking is a possibility you should definetely plant it a couple of inches above the surface of the soil to account for this. A ridiculously high percentage of trees die when planted below the surface of the existing soil and/or covered with soil next to the trunk. Make sure the rootflare at the base of the trunk is free of soil/mulch to prevent girdling.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2007 at 11:28PM
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Yes, you do not want to disturb the soil very deeply in the bottom of the planting hole. It will settle and that can account for sinking of the rootball. It is far more preferable to plant the rootball higher than the soil surface than it is to plant it too low. If you have compacted soil, you could also have drainage issues and a shallow but very wide planting hole and a high planting is always recommended under these situations.

FWIW, maples (and most other trees) do not have tap roots :-)

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 7:29AM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

All good advices... Another one is to make sure the side are rough, not smooth. Just chop up the sides a bit after you've dug a hole so the roots are encouraged to grow into the sides. The depth of the hole is always tricky in my opinion. It never turns out right for me so be careful not to overdo it.

You might want to get seaweed liquid to make a solution to soak roots in to reduce shock transplant and promote faster new root growth. A life long gardener claimed that she lost far far less plants this way. Small price to pay for expensive tree.

Once you've finished planting the tree, about 5 feet diameter circle minimum, spread 1 inch layer of compost followed by 3 inches layer of aged hardwood mulch rather than fresh ones. Make sure mulch do not touch the trunk at all. A lot of people make mistake of not mulching at all. Their trees don't even grow very much after 3 years. My 5 gallon oak trees are actually bigger than or caught up with my neighbors' 10-15 gallon trees and my trees hasn't even been in ground for 2 years . Theirs have been in ground over 3 years! They let nutrient hogging grass grow around the trees.

Back to mulch, if you can find hardwood chips that tree services cut down small branches and put through chippers, use them! Probably best of all for enriching soil more rapidly. Google ramial chipped wood. In my opinion, the fresh type of mulch that barely break down after a year is not worth it. Leaves are great to use underneath aged hardwood mulch or ramial wood chips. They break down faster promoting faster fungal growth. That's how forests are like. Lawns tend to have too low of fungi population and trees needs plenty of fungi population in the surrounding area to thrive. Trees and lawns need different type of nitrogen as well.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 11:05AM
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