Right way to plant tree saplings

Standard recommendation to plant tree saplings is to dig a hole deep and wide, expose it for many days, add manure & pesticides and fill it all back on planting.

I have however been reading up on the right way to plant trees and it appears that digging deeper than the sapling’s container bag is actually counterproductive since it disturbs the stability of the plant when soil gets compact. Essentially this means drilling a deep hole with an auger etc. is not required and actually not recommended. Instead a wider hole seems to be favoured in order to improve aeration to the laterally growing roots.

Second, many seem to suggest not using manure in the back filled soil since its benefits are only short term.

I am going to plant some trees soon and am favouring shallow pits with a spade or a shallow hole with an auger instead of deep holes. I welcome thoughts and ideas.

Dear Dr Chandra sir,

There is is good meaning in your study.

When the soil is disturbed and seedling/graft is planted, sure is, the root system will be disturbed , while soil gets consolidated. May not be much, but there is.

Actually it is learnt from the Agri/Horti authorities that the roots penetrate in to the soil ,with out much spending it’s food reserves, if the soil is loose. Even the soil is hard also, the roots can penetrate in to the soil, even it is hard also, of course by spending its food reserves.

One thing is sure that , whatever quantity of  fertilisers are supplied to the soil, the amount drawn by the plant will be between 20 %to 50% only, as because of leaching, turning to non available form/non consuming form , changing/turning of its form,  etc , of course in case of inorganic fertilisers. In case of Organic fertilisers, they will be totally consumed by the plant ,if not  consumed, it will be remain in the soil , with out changing its properties/form.

I should not say it, ( as I am not an authority in horti/Agri), but it is a fact that production will become 10 fold, if all the given fertilisers are received by the plants and converts in to yield. Hope that day will come soon.

With best wishes,      g.p.rao,    farmer.

If you are planting big trees like coconut, teak etc please have 2 feet depth of the pit.  This will ensure stability of the tree  in case of heavy winds.

One of my known nursery person planted mahogany at a depth of 18" and the trees were growing good.  Around three years of age there was heavy winds and  150 trees fell to ground.  When I was discussing depth of planting two months back he revealed his story and he said yes at least 2 feet depth is required for big trees.

Even Mr. subhash Palekar also suggests the depth of 2 feet in his book for coconut.

Thank you. I have Malabar neem in my mind - the length of the polybag in which the sapling comes is about 4 - 6 inches, no more.
In effect, however deep we dig a hole the backfill has to happen to just leave 4 - 6 inch depth finally since we can’t plant any deeper in any case.

It does make sense for coconut though.

I recently planted few Mango saplings and I was told that even though the pit is bigger than the packet size, it need to be filled with FYM / Soil / Neem Power (all as available) and ensure that the “grafting” is always above the ground.

Remove the grafting cover
Tighten the soil after planting

are the two suggestions I got while planting

Team, Good Day to all.
Back on the forum after a long time.

Yes as mentioned by Krisnaprasad, It is VERY IMPORTANT to plant big trees in deep pit as it helps in anchoring. Also in pit moisture stays good compared to plain surface, when heat waves travel.

Gradually you can keep adding biomass and keep covering the pit so that new roots also emerge later.

Dear Chandra,

Plants while growing break-open hardest of the shell, they just need needle hole to penetrate and then widen it.
Its a slow process in some tree and some is fast. They are very powerful.

When you plant trees in the open ground, primary root travels fast down underground to draw water and anchor. When you keep the plants in grow bags or nursery; primary root runs in circles. This causes them not to travel deep down well. As a result almost all the nursery plants are waste of money and unhealthy.

Have you seen plants growing healthy with abundant foliage and fruits naturally in forest or if you throw seeds in the open fertile land?

This is my understanding. Department people will not attest to this as its their source of income and for hundreds of people depended on it.

Welcome back. Yes, that is where I was going with it as well - when tree roots are so powerful, are we actually helping the tree with a deep hole or the opposite. Thanks.

Hi Chandra,

Tumko Farex Baby Maaloom ?  :wink: ( in hyderabad Style)

We all like Farex Baby’s. they look hale and healthy from the very begining.

On the other hand, breastfed baby looks little fragile, but always i found the immunity levels to be much different.

Similarly, when we dig deep and feed with lot of nutrition(FYM) for the plant to grow, we might see the prolific growth initially. But eventually there seems to be slow growth to adjust to find the nutrients them selves. Now If we keep feeding with more DAP and uread growth appears to be inline with Farex Baby’s. Ultimately if the Soil is not fertile plant growth will not be upto the mark. Its my observation.

Finally I am not a horticulturist but observing my plants. ( for my Guava/Mango  plants,I dug 2 feet deep pits and filled with FYM/red soil and neem cake/sithafal kernel powder and jeevamritham.)

This is a nice conversation covering two important aspects - one is about the size of the pits and another is about backfilling them with manure/fertilizers.

With my limited knowledge, I would like to add my points to this conversation.

Size of the pits: Width should be 3 or 4 times more and depth should be equal to that of the pack of the sapling. Key is to supply more oxygen to the roots which is possible through loosening the soil more horizontally than vertically. Break the soil on the edges within the pits; they shouldn’t very tough/hard. Expand the roots of the sapling gently after it is removed from the packet (this is mostly needed for bigger (3 year old) mango saplings that the nursery guys are supplying these days). Place the sapling such that the base of the trunk is above the ground level in the pit. Backfill the pit halfway after the sapling is kept erect in the pit; water it to allow the soil to settle in and to suppress the air bubbles; finish the back filling; water again to settle the rest of the soil. We shouldn’t crush the soil around the sapling with the feet; instead press gently using the hands.

Backfilling the pits with the fertilizers: Whenever a transplanting happens the plant gets disturbed. Such disturbance would be less if the climatic and soil conditions of our agriculture land and that of nursery are similar. But it is not practical (though the climatic conditions can be covered, it is not practical to have identical soil conditions between nursery & our land). As long as the soil in our land is more rich with organic matter, we don’t need to backfill the pits with the extra manure / fertilizers. Otherwise it is advisable to fill them with proper FYM, Vermicompost, Jeevamrutham, etc, in which case we need to dig the pits little more deeper than the size of the packets. The most important key is loosen the soil to allow the roots grow easily. That is why the wider/large pits are crucial.