Step 3: Dig the hole

digging the whole for a tree
Photo: Brian Wilder
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Subtract 2 inches from the height of the root ball; that's how deep to dig the hole. It's critical that you don't go any farther, since a deeper hole will bury the root flare.

Use a pointed shovel to cut through the grass all around the perimeter of the painted outline. Remove the grass and discard it or transplant it elsewhere; don't use it to backfill the hole.

Spread a plastic tarp beside the hole and shovel the soil onto the tarp, not directly onto the grass, so you can easily get it back into the hole when the time comes.
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    Tools List

    • pointed shovel
      Pointed shovel
    • pickax
      Pickax
    • bolt cutter
      Bolt cutters,
      to cut wire basket on root ball
    • 16-foot tape measure
      Tape measure
    • bypass pruners
      Bypass pruners,
      to trim broken branches
    • tarp
      Plastic tarp,
      to hold dirt shoveled from hole
    • strapping
      Strapping
    • paint sprayer
      Spray paint,
      to mark the hole outline
    • utility knife
      Utility knife,
      to cut away the burlap
    • hand cultivator
      Cultivator,
      to loosen the root ball

    Shopping List

    1. TREE

    2. 3-4-3 FERTILIZER

    3. SUPERPHOSPHATE

    4. PLASTIC TARP

    to hold dirt shoveled from hole



    5. STRING

    6. WOOD STAKE

    to tie off string



    7. DRIP-IRRIGATION BAGS

    8. SPRAY PAINT

    to mark the hole outline