Concern about hole size of newly planted October Glory Red Maple Trees


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I recently bought and planted 3 October Glory Red Maple trees. Each tree was previously in 25 gallon containers. I live in central NC where we have very hard/dense clay soil. The holes were dug deep enough and I backfilled with plant food and fertilizer and I put mulch on top.

But once the trees were planted, I realized that I should've made the holes twice the diameter of the 25 gallon containers from which each October Glory Red maple came out of. Instead my hole sizes were probably only 6 inches (on average) wider than the diameter of the pots from which the trees came out of.

So here are my questions. Will these trees likely decline over the next couple of years due to me not making the holes big enough? Should I go back and amend the soil farther out from the tree, or will the roots likely still find their way through the dense clay soil?

Thanks for any feedback here. If I need to take further action, I will probably (try) to get a tree company to help as I had a very difficult time getting the holes dug in the first place (with my shovel). Landscaping companies obviously have much better equipment for tackling a job like this, especially trees of this size that are placed in clay soil.
 
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Greetings, welcome to the Forums.

Digging a planting hole wider makes placing the tree in the hole easier, but in the long term it will not decide whether the tree thrives or not.
Why? Because your trees must grow into your native soil to survive. Full-sized trees cannot survive in the space of a planting hole. They will have to deal with unamended clay very soon, usually within the first year of planting. Some tree planters don't recommend any amendments when planting trees. I find adding some compost can get young saplings off to a good start, but I don't expect or want them to keep their roots confined to that space.
Your October Glory Red Maples (Acer rubrum 'October Glory') should do fine in most clay situations. Since you know your soil can hold water when irrigated, water your trees deeply but infrequently until established.
 
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Thanks for your quick reply and your welcome wish to the forum.

What you said is reassuring as I kept reading (online) about this golden rule (so to speak) about making the diameter of the holes twice the width of the diameter of the tree pot(s). (I read about that after my trees were already in the ground). But I suppose, regardless of what people may suggest about the hole size, you make a very good point about the fact that any tree is going to have to adapt to the native soil (whether it's dense clay soil or otherwise).

The trees were planted 6 days ago; and I've been giving them (each) about a bucket of water a day, especially since we've had a dry spell with no rain for the last few weeks. But I am thinking I can start to (slowly) back off that amount of water in week 2, especially if we start getting rain. And in this part of the country, we normally do (on average) get sufficient rainfall, with some exceptions, of course, during parts of the year.

I had a (somewhat) secondary concern about the fact that I am on septic system with leach lines (I live outside of the city with no access to a municipal sewer system)....and the fact that one of my October Glorys is not quite 50 feet off the outermost septic leach/drainage line in the yard. But, as per the measurements, the closest tree is still (at least) 42 feet off the outermost septic drainage/leach line "and" the other 2 October Glory Trees are even farther away than that distance (i.e. well over 50 feet off the lines). So I think I am okay on this secondary concern.

I am not a plant expert and just trying to learn as I go along and read new information. But I look forward to learning more about trees and shrubs while adding additional plants to the landscape of this fairly new home (a few years old). Thanks again for your feedback.
 
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My experience with the various maples in my dense clay is that they climb on top of the clay as they root if they are going to be successful. If you want to consider any issue more important than any other issue, then consider the height of the plant base in clay rather than the width, since water retention is too high and oxygen aeration is too low. Clay just makes a water bowl when dug out. Because it is wet, and too wet really for too long, also consider root funguses as a real threat as the temps climb up this spring. Treat preventatively with drenching in case your efforts also transplanted opportunistic spores just waiting for spring energy to bloom. Do this especially if you find decline or death in other young or mid-life plants or trees on the property where a visual inspection shows no evidence of a malady.
 
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Planting on a mound does improve soil aeration, but it is not always necessary or even possible. Maple trees do grow on flat, slightly sloping lawns. Hmm, that's strange. There was a photo of the site attached to the second OP post, but its gone now.

The phrase 'dense clay' could mean many things but don't assume a saturated swamp. If the clay isn't overly compacted and there is a place for water to go, clay will drain.

I do not recommend drenching the soil prophylactically with fungicide, which is waht inspired me to reply again. There will be more benefits than dangers to having a diverse assemblage of fungi and microbes in the soil. Fungicide users alway suggest that these fungicides will magically work only on pathogens and never harm mycorrhizae or detritovores.

Even if there actually is a fungal or water mold (Phytophthora) infection, I still would not run to the fungicides. Perhaps if it is a new invasive like Phytophthora ramorum, though even then probably not. In any case, most root rot occurs because the wrong plant was planted in the wrong place. Of course, native fungi will take advantage of that error.

Yes, improve drainage where feasible, but proper plant selection is the real key. If the soil really is that aforementioned saturated swamp, forget about maples (Acer) and plant a Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum).
 
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Planting on a mound does improve soil aeration, but it is not always necessary or even possible. Maple trees do grow on flat, slightly sloping lawns. Hmm, that's strange. There was a photo of the site attached to the second OP post, but its gone now.

The phrase 'dense clay' could mean many things but don't assume a saturated swamp. If the clay isn't overly compacted and there is a place for water to go, clay will drain.

I do not recommend drenching the soil prophylactically with fungicide, which is waht inspired me to reply again. There will be more benefits than dangers to having a diverse assemblage of fungi and microbes in the soil. Fungicide users alway suggest that these fungicides will magically work only on pathogens and never harm mycorrhizae or detritovores.

Even if there actually is a fungal or water mold (Phytophthora) infection, I still would not run to the fungicides. Perhaps if it is a new invasive like Phytophthora ramorum, though even then probably not. In any case, most root rot occurs because the wrong plant was planted in the wrong place. Of course, native fungi will take advantage of that error.

Yes, improve drainage where feasible, but proper plant selection is the real key. If the soil really is that aforementioned saturated swamp, forget about maples (Acer) and plant a Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum).
You are correct of course but fungal id is usually post mortem at the house. And that is an interesting point about the subtle slope participating in successful drainage. It is an area of valley between two such slopes that I have oaks, cherry, magnolia, and one occasionally struggling japanese maple. We lost two golden raintrees, though thats not saying much, they break down like redbuds in our winds. River birches do well.
 
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Now an entire post is missing from the OP is missing from the thread. It would have been between the fifth and sixth post. It had a more in-depth description of the soil, basically upland clay, and there was another photo of the planting site. That is odd and does undermine the nature of a public forum.

@DirtMechanic It sounds like you have both the slopes and the bottom of a riparian environment. Its nice to have both better-drained and wetter areas to plant a variety of different plants. My garden is basically on the flat top of a clay hill. For me, it is a balancing act of both maintaining small mounds and beds of better-draining material and also mulching and landforming to keep as much water on the land and into the soil as possible.
 
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My apologies. I was attempting to post/edit earlier this afternoon and got distracted while working at home today so I simply deleted my follow-up post (from earlier this afternoon) with the intent of revisiting the forum this evening (as I am doing now).

My home is in an elevated area so there are no worries about marshy areas or anything like that. This property drains quite well. The clay soil is very typical of central NC, but (perhaps) even more dense than average clay soil. So much so that during the summer (when it's hot and dry), it's very difficult to dig a hole at all (at least with a shovel).

And so this was my original concern (after I planted the trees) about the fact that I did not amend the soil much (perhaps no more than 6 inches beyond the diameter of the tree pots). However, it appears (as Marck has indicated) tree roots will normally still find their way and adapt to the soil conditions in which they are placed. And I suppose this makes sense when we think about the number of trees that seem to do quite well in the wild (in forests).

At any rate, I have included a photo of my maple trees in this post. There are a total of 3 of them that were planted closer to the street. My home sits roughly 260 feet off a paved road in the county, outside of the city.
 

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From the feedback I have received here, it appears okay that I did not make the digging holes double the size of the tree pots (before the trees were planted in the ground. However, I did plan on adding more mulch around each tree, essentially widening the diameter around each tree to help retain moisture for these water loving trees.

Question: when I add more mulch, should I try to create a "bowl like" design near the trunk of each tree? I ask this question because it appears it would be important (particularly in the Spring and Summer) in regards to retaining more moisture. That, and the fact that the clay soil gets "very" hard in the Spring and Summer months with our hot temperatures that time of year.

See picture in previous post. Thanks for any additional comments; and happy Thanksgiving to all in the US!
 
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I find myself often doing just the opposite of attracting water in my clay. While on the one hand I need the moisture retention mainly for our hot summers, we average well more than an inch per week of rainfall and that can lead to such wet conditions that I spend efforts towards ensuring drainage and runoff.
 
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