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Preparing a Planting Hole

[chart] Chart depicting steps of proper planting procedureLocate holes for tree planting in good soil that is deep enough to accommodate the seedling's roots when they are fully extended. Seedlings should not be planted in rotten logs, duff, mixes of organic matter, or soil that easily dries out. The hole must be large enough in all dimensions so that the seedling's roots may be inserted without being deformed or damaged. All roots should be planted so they are vertical, with the exception of an occasional long lateral root that can be laid in the bottom of the hole.

Use the Open Hole Method when planting. Use the planting tool to open a hole large enough to allow for the tree roots to be aligned naturally and soil to be compact. Place loosened soil back into the hole and progressively firm the soil from the bottom of the hole toward the top. The seedling should be positioned in the center of the hole. Planting in the side of the hole is acceptable only in limited cases where sandy soils are present.

Do not plant trees in narrow slits opened in the ground (slit planting). The seedling's roots will not develop properly in most soils.

Minimum Standards for Planting Bareroot Seedlings

The standard minimum size of a planting hole for bareroot stock is:

  • Two inches deeper than the root length of the seedling being planted.
  • At least 3½ inches diameter for the full length of the hole. If augers will be used for planting, the hole should be at least 4 inches in diameter. The extra width allows the soil to be firmed by tamping.

Minimum Standards for Planting Container Stock

The standard minimum size of a planning hole for container stock is:

  • One inch deeper than the plug length.
  • At least 3 inches in diameter at top of the hole and 1 inch in diameter at the bottom.
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