Preparing Tree Planting Holes

Proper preparation of holes for planting trees is necessary for tree growth and survival.

Trees are available at plant nurseries and garden centers in different container sizes and as bare root, and balled and burlapped.

Each method has advantages and disadvantages and requires different handling and planting techniques.

Information on planting trees and shrubs is available from the resources listed below.


Additional Resources:


Florida – Planting Hole Size and Configuration

South Carolina – Planting Trees Correctly



Good Soil Structure

Good soil structure is important for determining how soil particles bond to each other, how porous soils are, and how they respond to compaction.

Soils in the human landscape are often disturbed leading to drainage problems and low levels of organic matter.

Soil is made of different sized particles of sand, silt and clay. This is referred to as soil texture. The way those particles are put together determines the soil structure.

Soil structure is classified according to the size …

Creating Your Own Worm Farm

Creating your own worm farm can be a fun and rewarding way of getting rid of food scraps and reducing waste going into the landfill.

Composting with worms or vermicomposting is the process of adding worms to a bin or other container to speed up the process of organic material decomposition and create a nutrient rich compost.

Redworms or red wriggler worms are a type of earthworm most commonly recommended for bin composting indoors. This type of composting is ideal …

Benefits of Mycorrhizae

Mycorrhizae are soil fungi that benefit the soil in many ways. A healthy soil is important for a water-wise landscape. Organic matter, drainage, and plant nutrients contribute to the fertility and health of the soil and plants found therein.

Mycorrhizae literally means “fungus root” and describes a mutualistic association between fungus and plant roots that exists in almost all plants. The plant supports the fungus by providing carbohydrates needed for fungal growth, while the fungus helps the plant by increasing …

Soil Testing Laboratories

Soil testing laboratories provide a variety of soil analysis services. Tests recommended for lawns, gardens, and landscapes should include soil pH, the macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, soil pH, and salinity.

What does the laboratory test and how?

The process requires mixing several random soil samples (see instructions on submission packet) before submitting for testing. Results of the test give information to assist the homeowner in developing a fertilization program.

Since each soil testing laboratory may use different testing …

How to Add Organic Matter to Soil

Healthy soil is made up of many components. Soil texture, drainage, and nutrient content are all important ingredients that contribute to plant health. One of the best ways to improve the ability of the soil to hold moisture, provide nutrients, and allow drainage is by adding organic matter into the soil.

Adding Organic Matter to Soil

  • Rototilling usually mixes organic matter into the top 4-6 inches of soil, heavier-duty tillers can reach depths of 8 inches
  • Aim for 5% organic

Materials to Improve Drainage in Soil

Materials to improve drainage in soil include organic or inorganic amendments. Organic amendments have the added capability of providing additional organic matter and nutrients.

Amendments can include bark and wood chips, compost,and pea gravel, depending on soil type. Note that mixing wood products into soil can tie up nitrogen availability. Additional nitrogen fertilizer may be necessary.

As a result of their high water retention capacity, clay soils often drain inadequately. Materials to improve clay soils differ from those needed for …

Improving Water Retention in Soil

  A sample of vermiculite. Photo credit: Brian Pettinger Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Improving water retention in soils begins with understanding the soil type found in the garden. Soils are generally made up of varying mixtures of three sizes of soil particles; sand, silt and clay, known as soil texture.

Generally, water retention is inversely related to permeability. Sandy soils have the lowest water retention, followed by silt, and then soils high in clay.

Various soil amendments are available that …

Soil Preparation for Vegetable Gardens

Properly prepared soil provides a healthy substrate for producing an abundant supply of nutritious vegetables from the home garden.

Characteristics of Properly Prepared Soil for Vegetable Gardens

  • Improved seed germination
  • Increased aeration and drainage
  • Improved soil texture and structure
  • Higher biological activity
  • Improved fertility

Soil Preparation Basics

  • A soil test provides an understanding of soil pH and nutrient availability
  • Proper tillage aerates the soil allowing for better drainage and deeper root penetration
  • Adding organic matter improves soil structure, increases water-holding

Water Absorbing Polymers


A colored water-absorbing polymer bead soaked in water (left) and original size bead (right). Photo credit: Roger Ahlbrand Flickr CC BY 2.0

Water-absorbing polymers are long chains of molecules designed to hold large amounts of water. Water-absorbing polymers have the ability to retain up to 40 times their weight in water. While they have shown to be effective in some situations, not all situations are appropriate for water-absorbing polymers.

Water-absorbing polymers may be useful in soils with low organic