How to Plant a Tree

Step 2:
Dig a Hole


How Wide? Dig a hole with sloping sides that is 2x as wide as the tree’s root ball.

How Deep? Dig down about one to two inches less than the height of the root ball. If the root ball gets buried too deep, the roots might not get enough water or air.

Helpful Hint:

Don’t Be a Glazer!
No, we don’t mean glazed donuts (if you’re really from Baltimore, you call ‘em honey dips). Glazing is when the sides and bottom of a hole become smooth and form a barrier, which is difficult for water, and tree roots to penetrate. This happens most often in moist soil with high clay content. Here’s how to avoid it:

  • Before you put the tree in the hole, use the pointy end of your shovel to break up ½ inch of the soil surface in the bottom and sides the hole. This is called scarifying.
  • If the soil is very moist, raise the dirt in the center of the hole’s bottom slightly higher than the surrounding area and pack it tight. This raises the height of the root ball, making sure the roots don’t drown.

Helpful Hint:

Remove Debris from Soil:
When digging the hole, remove large rocks and bricks, and especially mortar and concrete. If you’re in doubt about the soil quality, you can have it tested before planting. Read more about soil testing and contact UMaryland Cooperative Extension for help.