How to Plant Trees in Clay Soil

What You'll Need
Organic mulch
pH meter
Garden hose
Wood stakes
Ball of strings
Clay soil

It is quite challenging to plant trees in clay soil since clay soil handles drainage poorly and has limited oxygen content which is not fit for a transplanted tree. The key to successfully planting trees in clay soil is choosing the right type of tree and following the proper procedure on how to plant trees in clay soil. Below are the materials that you need along with the steps on how to plant trees in clay soil.

Step 1 - Select a Tree

Select a tree that is right for your region or state. Trees are categorized in its hardiness associated with the ideal range of temperature for optimum tree growth. For example, a plant with a hardiness zone 2 thrives well in temperatures ranging from -50 to -40 degrees F. Ask your local plant nursery for the right kind of trees that are suitable for planting in your area.

Step 2 - Check the pH level

Using a pH meter, check the clay soil for pH level. Clay soils are usually alkaline rather than acidic so choose a tree that can suitably grow in an alkaline soil.

Step 3 - Plant Location

Choose a plant location that is exposed to full sun for at least 8 hours each day. Some trees need full exposure to the sun to thrive well. Pick a plant location that receives at least 8 hours of partial shade if you cannot find a plant location with 8 hours of full sun a day.

Step 4 - Prepare the Plant Area

After you have determined the ideal plant location, mark the plant location using wood stakes and string. The plant area should be twice the diameter of the root ball of the tree that you are planting.

Step 5 - Till and Aerate

Till the plant area using a garden tiller and with a garden hose, aerate the plant area to loosen the soil even more.  

Step 6 - Dig

With a garden shovel, dig a hole and remove the loosened soil. The hole should be twice as wide as the diameter of the root ball of the tree that you are planting. The depth of the hole should also be twice the length of the tree’s root ball.

Step 7 - Plant the Tree

Remove the tree from its container carefully and place it in the hole. Loosen any tangled roots and place the tree in the middle of the hole.

Step 8 - Backfill

Backfill 1/3 of the hole with clay soil and organic mulch; you can also use the soil in the original container of the plant as backfilling.

Step 9 - Let the Soil Settle

Allow the soil to settle into the hole. To hasten this process, you can use a garden hose set in a slow-run to allow the soil to sink into the soil. As the soil sinks, fill in more backfilling materials and repeat this step until the soil is level with the ground surface.

Step 10 - Apply more Mulch

Apply 4 inch layer of organic mulch in the area around the tree. Make sure that the organic mulch does not touch the tree trunk.