Q. I’m new to the area. Recent winds toppled some of my new trees. They were planted in compacted limestone and the hole was only as big as the root ball. Should I have added something to the soil to help my plants?
O.G., West Kendall
Welcome to south Florida and our unique soils!
When planting any type of plant, whether it’s a begonia or a live oak, the planting hole should be shallow and at least two to three times the diameter of the rootball. All too often people dig a deep hole thinking it’s beneficial for the plant, but studies show the opposite. In fact, the hole should be a couple inches shallower than the rootball so that when the plant is planted, the uppermost major roots at the base of the plant are a couple inches above the level of the surrounding soil.
For trees and shrubs, it’s not recommended to add anything to the soil when planting. Use only the soil left over from digging the hole. Avoid adding fertilizer until three to six months after planting.
The plant gets no benefit from adding potting soil, bagged topsoil, peat moss, or compost when putting trees in the ground. These amendments can actually cause problems since the roots are less likely to establish in the surrounding soil. Instead, they circle around and around in the original hole.
Avoid packing the soil when planting. If the trees are falling over easily, try staking them. Just remember to remove the tree stakes in one year.
For additional information on proper tree planting techniques and how often to water after planting, please read this UF Extension publication: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep314.
Adrian Hunsberger is an entomologist/horticulturist with the UF/IFAS Miami-Dade Extension office. Write to Plant Clinic, 18710 SW 288th St., Homestead, FL 33030; e-mail email@example.com.