Add lime to break up clay before planting a new tree from sapling?

Asked July 24, 2016, 5:41 PM EDT

I have a very young Chinese Tallow that my mother grew from a seed which I'd like to plant in our 4 year old yard. Where I'm planting, I've got only a small layer of home builder's leveling soil before hitting clay. I was advised by a friend to add lime, but I wasn't advised how much, how, nor any other details.

I have a 50lb bag of "farm and garden" lime and a hole mostly dug. What's next? :)

The sapling is only about a foot tall over the 5 inch tall pot. Haven't checked out the rootball yet,

Brazos County Texas

1 Response

Please see directions below for planting trees, which does not suggest using lime.

New Tree Planting

From International Society of Arboriculture: Trees are good website……..

Think of the tree you just purchased as a lifetime investment. How well the tree and your investment grows depends on the type of tree, it’s size, planting location, proper planting and the care after planting.

Tree Planting

The ideal time to plant trees in Central Texas is during the dormant season - the fall after leaf drop or winter before budbreak. Weather conditions are usually cooler with more rainfall, allowing plants to establish roots in the new location before spring. However, trees properly cared for in the nursery or garden center, and given the appropriate care during transport to prevent damage, can be planted throughout the growing season. In either situation, proper handling during planting is essential to ensure a healthy future for new trees. Before planting:

a. Have all underground utilities located prior to digging.

b. Carefully measure the distance from the planting site to site structures and existing elements, ie. house, garage, patio, fence, overhead utilities. Allow enough space to ensure once the tree reaches mature size, it does not touch or interfere with existing structures.

If the tree is balled, wrapped with burlap or bare root, it is important to understand that its root system has been reduced by 90 to 95 percent of its original size during transplanting. As a result of the trauma caused by the digging process, trees commonly exhibit what is known as transplant shock. Containerized trees may also experience transplant shock, particularly if they have circling roots that must be cut. Transplant shock is indicated by slow growth and reduced vigor following transplanting. Proper site preparation before and during planting coupled with good follow-up care reduces the amount of time the plant experiences transplant shock and allows the tree to quickly establish in its new location. Carefully follow nine simple steps, and to significantly reduce the stress placed on the plant at the time of planting.

  1. Dig a shallow, broad planting hole. Make the hole wide, as much as three times the diameter of the root ball but only as deep as the root ball. It is important to make the hole wide because the roots on the newly establishing tree must push through surrounding soil in order to establish. On most planting sites in new developments, the existing soils have been either added to the site or compacted and may not induce healthy root growth. Breaking up the soil – a light soil disturbance, not deep tilling - in a large area around the tree provides the newly emerging roots room to expand into loose soil to hasten establishment.
  2. Identify the trunk flare. The trunk flare is where the roots spread at the base of the tree. This point should be visible after the tree has been planted (see diagram). If the trunk flare is not visible, remove some soil from the top of the root ball. Find the root flare, to determine how deep the hole needs to be for proper planting.
  3. Remove tree container for containerized trees. Carefully cutting down the sides of the container may make this easier. Inspect the root ball for circling roots and cut or remove them. Expose the trunk flare, if necessary.
  4. Place the tree at the proper height. Before placing the tree in the hole, check to see that the hole has been dug to the proper depth and no more. The majority of the roots on the newly planted tree will develop in the top 12 inches of soil. If the tree is planted too deeply, new roots will have difficulty developing because of a lack of oxygen. It is better to plant the tree a little high, 2 to 3 inches above the base of the trunk flare, than to plant it at or below the original growing level. This planting level will allow for some settling (see diagram). To avoid damage when setting the tree in the hole, always lift the tree by the root ball and never by the trunk. A tarp may be used to maneuver large trees into place.
  5. Straighten the tree in the hole. Before backfilling, view the tree from several directions to confirm that it is straight, since it is difficult to reposition the tree after backfilling.
  6. Fill the hole gently but firmly. Fill the hole about one-third full and gently but firmly pack the soil around the base of the root ball. Then, if the root ball is wrapped, cut and remove any fabric, plastic, string, and wire from around the trunk and root ball to facilitate growth (see diagram). Be careful not to damage the trunk or roots in the process. Fill the remainder of the hole, taking care to pack soil to eliminate air pockets that may cause roots to dry out. To avoid this problem, add the soil a few inches at a time and settle with a little water. Continue this process until the hole is filled and the tree is firmly planted. It is not recommended to apply fertilizer at the time of planting.
  7. Stake the tree, if necessary. If the tree is grown and dug properly at the nursery, staking for support will not be necessary in most home landscape situations. Studies have shown that trees establish more quickly and develop stronger trunk and root systems if they are not staked at the time of planting. However, protective staking may be required on sites where lawn mower damage, vandalism, or windy conditions are concerns. If staking is necessary for support, there are three methods to choose among: staking, guying, and ball stabilizing. One of the most common methods is staking. With this method, two stakes used in conjunction with a wide, flexible tie material on the lower half of the tree will hold the tree upright, provide flexibility, and minimize injury to the trunk (see diagram). Remove support staking and ties after the first year of growth.
  8. Mulch the base of the tree. Mulch is simply organic matter applied to an area at the base of the tree. It acts as a blanket to hold moisture, it moderates soil temperature extremes, protects the trunk from damage and it reduces competition from grass and weeds. Some good choices are leaf litter, pine straw, shredded hardwood or composted wood chips. A 2- to 4-inch layer is suggested at a width of at least 18 inches – wider is better - encircling the trunk. More than 4 inches depth may cause a problem with oxygen and moisture levels. When placing mulch, be sure that the mulch does not contact the trunk of the tree. Doing so may cause decay of the living bark at the base of the tree. A mulch-free area, 1 to 2 inches from the base of the tree, is sufficient to avoid moist bark conditions and prevent decay.
  9. Care after planting. Keep the soil moist but not saturated; both under and overwatering cause leaves to turn yellow or fall off. Water trees at least once a week, barring rain, and more frequently during hot weather. When the soil is dry below the surface of the mulch, it is time to water. Continue until mid-fall, tapering off for frequent rainfall or lower temperatures that require less-frequent watering.

    Other follow-up care may include minor pruning of branches damaged during the planting process. Prune sparingly immediately after planting and wait to begin necessary corrective pruning until after a full season of growth in the new location.

    After completing these nine steps, regular care and favorable weather conditions will ensure that a new tree will grow and thrive. A valuable asset to any landscape, trees provide a long-lasting source of beauty and enjoyment for people of all ages. When questions arise about the care of your tree, consult your local ISA Certified Arborist or a tree care or garden center professional for assistance.