Planting a dogwood in hard ground

Asked October 8, 2017, 6:48 PM EDT

I want to plant a 7' dogwood that I bought in a 2-gallon (approx) pot. But when I tried to dig the hole it's extremely hard to dig. I only got down 6" before deciding to contact you to see if I should even continue. I've attached a photo of the hole because the dirt looks very lifeless. The area I want to plant it is a clearing where no trees have been growing. That makes me suspicious and I'm wondering what the previous owner of this 2-acre property may have had in this area. I filled the 6" hole with 3" water and after 1 hour the water level had only gone down about 3/4". Should I continue or find another location? I've also attached a photo of the location. Thank you.

Queen Anne's County Maryland planting dogwood

1 Response

We viewed your photos. You have a couple of options. Plant in the same location, prepare an island bed in this area for planting, or choose another location. It is a good idea to test the soil for pH and nutrient deficiencies https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/soils/soil-testing

The ground looks very hard and compacted. You can continue to pick and/or shatter the ground to physically loosen up the soil in the same area to plant. Make sure the diameter of the hole is about 3-5 times the diameter of the root ball and plant slightly above ground level. Do not plant too deeply. No fertilizer or organic matter is recommended in the planting hole because it encourages the root growth to remain within the planting hole rather than spreading outward. Plants often “drown” in these holes because organic matter holds water like a sponge, while the surrounding clayey soil is slow to drain.

Island Bed - Where soil conditions are extremely compacted or poorly drained, the minimum area to modify is approximately 100 square feet per tree and 25 square feet per shrub. In such situations, consider planting in “island beds”. Trees and shrubs grown in “island” plantings tend to be healthier than those planted singly.
You can till in some organic matter like compost in this island bed and plant other ornamentals like perennials or shrubs. Mulch the bed or planting hole with an organic mulch no thicker than several inches and keep away from the base of the trees and shrubs. after planting. Keep well watered up until the ground freezes and the next season during dry periods. Take a look at the planting process and after care http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/trees-and-shrubs/planting-process

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