His question was only: What are you doing? But the tone was clearly critical.
“I’m rooting directionally,” I replied. “I want the roots to grow away from the house so I’m encouraging them down into softer soil. That’s why the hole is sloping.”
Whenever I plant something new, there’s a lot to consider: Will the plant get enough or too much sun? Does it need really good drainage? How big will it grow in the next five years and most importantly – how do I keep it alive? That’s because nearly all the plants I get from the nursery are so woefully pot-bound, I can’t figure out how they’ve lived this long anyway.
We’ve all been told to loosen the soil around the mass of root-ball. Nevertheless, I’ve dug up plants that died because roots still couldn’t break free.
Here’s my solution: Gently break the root-ball into quarters from the bottom up, so that the centre of the root ball is exposed (see picture). Always dig a hole that’s about three times larger than the root. Pile potting mix into a mound in the centre of your hole and balance the plant on top, arranging the roots around the mound so that they will grow and spread outwards. Then backfill the hole. Water well for a week before allowing it to dry out.
Dry soil will shrink and crack. The roots will force their way out into the garden and your plant won’t become ground-bound.
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