Questions about October Glory Red Maples

Nov 20, 2021
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Winston-Salem NC
United States
Last November, I planted 3 October Glory Red Maples in my front yard. I planted them at grade level (versus an inch or two above grade). I also only dug holes that were probably about 6 inches wider than the pots from which these trees came out of "versus" digging my holes double the diameter of each tree pot (which appears to be the general guidelines). I didn't know much about planting trees at the time; but I have learned some things since that time! Others have previously said I should be okay with the way I planted them. I certainly hope so.

But here's my questions now. Since this is the first year since the trees were planted, how much should I water them? I am guessing it would be hard to over water these red maples since they are water loving trees! I would say I've been averaging about two buckets (per tree) every week except in cases where we've had a lot of rain. Is this a good plan? More, or less watering? I live in the central part of North Carolina; and as many of you know, we have very dense clay soil in this part of the country. So much so, that our soil gets "brick" hard when we go into dry spells. Try to dig any holes around here in summer!

Second, I am just curious about the leafing out period? All the other trees in my area appear to be "fully" leafed out now that we are well into Spring. This is normally the case for this part of the country by the middle part of April unlike the northeast states where Spring arrives a bit later. But these maples still don't have leaves on them, although I do see buds on the trees. Is it normal for this type of new tree to be so far behind all the others?

Finally, what is the most effective way to fertilize these new trees? For example, I know I can buy fertilizer spikes that I hammer into the ground near the trees. Or, there are other alternatives such as Miracle Grow (which some people seem to insist is the best). Thoughts here?

Thanks for any feedback here. I am just trying to do what I can to help these new trees along, especially since I didn't plant them in the best way possible. They are big trees and came in 25 gallon containers.
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