This morning, I felt lazy and did not feel like making my breakfast. I went for a coffee with my neighbours. They are good people. More than the laziness, it is the longing for human interaction once in a while, that I visit my neighbours. As such, I am more of a loner and happy in my own company. Later in the day, I had planned on planting some fruit trees today. Our discussion went to this topic and then I realised that very few people actually give a serious thought about how a hole for planting a tree should be dug. So, these are my thoughts for my lovely neighbours to help them in future and for anyone starting to lead a slow life.
This is just about how the hole for planting a tree should be. First of all, it should be dug out of a slightly larger size than you feel is sufficient. There is a method for digging. I first mark the area to be dug, usually a square (and not a round hole). Next, when I start digging, the top soil is gathered on one side of the hole and then the soil from deep down on the other side. Usually, I prefer double the depth of holes than the longest roots visible. The width also is usually equal to the depth but then again it depends on trees being planted. For shallow root trees, the hole should be much broader than deep. It also depends on soil. In a ground full of clay or large rocks, I prefer to dig a large hole. The hole has to be cuboidal. This prevents the roots from going round and round as happens in a usual planter or pot.
Once the planting hole is dug, I do a quick test by filling it with water and seeing how fast or slow the water gets absorbed. Slow absorption means a compacted soil, maybe full of clay. Fast absorption happens in loose soil or sandy soil. Once the water disappears from the hole, I plant the tree.
While filling the planting hole back, the soil from deep down the hole goes in first. The top soil gets filled back on the top. This ensures that the soil structure remains almost as it was before and this also helps in faster establishment of fungal networks in the soil. Even the soil microorganisms and worms, get to stay in their original position. Also shake the plant a little while filling back if it is a bare root one. This will enable an ample amount of soil to get between the roots.
There is yet another thought that has the gardening society divided. Whether to mix compost / manure, in the soil that is being put back in the hole. The ‘for group’ says that it helps in the initial growth of the tree. The ‘against group’ says that it may harm the tender roots and in the long term restrict the root growth to within the hole. I belong to both the groups. I vary my opinion from hole to hole depending on the soil conditions inside and the kind of fruit tree being planted. As a rule, it is better to err on the lower side of addition of soil enrichments than going overboard with this.
And now the last part. For ground that is compacted or clay soil, the planting hole should be filled back completely and then a small conical mound created around the plant. The highest point being around the stem of the plant and then slanting out to almost the ground level near the edge of the original hole that was dug. This prevents rain water from seeping in excessively. It’s the opposite of what people usually do. The hole in such a soil that was dug, acts as a planter without any drainage. So, creating a depression around the tree actually ends up damaging the tree by leading to waterlogging in the hole. Most trees hate wet feet.
On the other hand, if the soil is loamy, soft, or sandy, the hole should be filled back to a slightly lower level than the surrounding ground. Even making a central depression and a small circular mound around the hole helps. This helps collect water from rain or irrigation.
I think this is all there is to digging a hole for planting and filling it back. Maybe, I might have missed something. I will read the steps after I finish planting some trees today and add if I missed anything.