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Compacted soil can restrict roots

Roots growing in compacted soil can be severely deflected and restricted. This ash tree was planted a few inches too deep and in a planting hole just larger than the bare-root root ball.

Three years after planting, many roots can be seen growing in a circle around the edge of the original planting hole. Most of the roots that were able to grow out of the planting hole did so on the top half of the photo. Few made it out on the side of the tree toward the bottom of the photo.

Digging a wide planting hole and planting at the proper depth can help prevent this severe root deflection. For the most stable tree, roots should have grown more-or-less straight out from the trunk.

The most important thing you can do to encourage rapid recovery from transplanting in compacted soil is to loosen soil around the planting hole in as large an area as possible. A 10 to 15 foot-wide loosened soil area would not be too big. Locate about 25% of the root ball above the surrounding landscape soil by planting on a mound of soil.

planting hole can restrict roots