Garden Basics: How to Dig a Hole

Did you know that there is a 'right' and a 'wrong' way to dig a hole? Learn the garden basics of what size your hole should be before planting to ensure a happy plant.

Gardening Basics: Planting Shrubs

Spring is a great time to add plants to the garden.

Spring is here and flocks of gardeners are heading to their local nursery – are you one of them?  While we spend a lot of time deciding what and where we will plant, we often forget garden basics and how important the hole is in determining how well our new plants will do in their new home.

You may have heard the saying, “It’s better to plant a $1 plant in a $5 hole”.  But, have you ever wondered what it meant?

The wrong-sized hole for trees and shrubs.

This hole is too small.

As a Certified Arborist, I often see trees and shrubs planted incorrectly.  While the hole, pictured above, may look fine – there are two things wrong with it and it all has to do with the size of the hole.  This hole is too deep and narrow.

Holes should be 2 – 3X as wide as the rootball.  The reason for this is that most roots grow sideways and this much easier for them to do this in soil that has recently been disturbed (dug up) as opposed to rock-hard soil.

Now, for those of you digging the holes, you may not be happy to learn that you need to dig more.  BUT, I do have some good news – you don’t have to dig too deeply.  In fact, most gardeners dig new holes too deep, which can lead to settling and contribute to them becoming water-logged.  The depth of holes should be an inch or two shallower then the root ball.


Garden Basics digging a hole the right way.

A little extra preparation in digging a hole for your new plant and will help it to grow faster then one planted in a hole too narrow or deep.  So before planting your new plants this spring, be sure to put a little effort into creating the right-size hole – your plants will thank you for it.

For more information on how to plant trees, check out this article from the International Society of Arborists.

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