Planting a tree is one of the simplest ways to make a long-term impact in your community. Depending on the species, you can expect decades of flowers, berries, and autumn color in exchange for a small investment and a few minutes of work.
While planting a tree does not seem to be rocket science, scientific research has overturned much of the conventional wisdom about planting saplings in recent decades, including some strange ideas. So, let me explain why science proves that it’s easier to plant trees in square holes – and more efficient.
Trees were traditionally planted in round holes, possibly because their trunks and canopies are both round. It was just one of those unquestionably obvious conclusions. But, as the old guide books say, when you plant a tree in a round hole, particularly one filled with lots of rich compost and fertilizer, here’s what happens to the tree’s roots.
The tiny sapling will easily sprout new roots that will spread across the fluffy growing medium. The roots, on the other hand, will snaking along the edge of the hole’s edge in search of ideal growing conditions until they reach the comparatively poorer and compacted soil at the hole’s perimeter.
Round holes are not the ideal shape for planting trees, despite what you may hear.
Square holes encourage roots to “flare out” into native soil, while round holes encourage them to spiral into a tight ball, according to botanist James Wong.
Trees planted in round holes seem to be doing well at first. However, many people will starve and die in just a few weeks.
This is due to the sapling’s ease of establishment in the fluffy, fertilized soil used to fill the void. They transform and spiral into a cylindrical shape when they meet the rough, compacted soil at the hole’s perimeter as if they were in a jar.
Why you should plant trees in square holes….
Sounds weird, but there’s scientific method behind the madness.https://t.co/8jo3jXJmID
— James Wong (@Botanygeek) December 8, 2019
The simple act of digging a square hole will help to escape the whole tangled mess.
Simply digging a square hole instead of a circular one when planting the sapling would greatly increase your tree’s chances of survival. The roots would not form a circular root system because they are not good at growing around corners, as shown by systematic planting trials. Rather than snaking around in a spiral when the roots reach the 90-degree angle of a square hole, they expand out of the planting hole to colonize the surrounding native soil.
Not only would the tree have a greater chance of thriving, but it will also grow at a faster pace and become more resistant to environmental threats such as droughts.
Instead of filling the void with rich organic compounds and compost, fill it with the soil you just dug out while planting a tree. This will reduce the probability of the roots displaying “container effect” behavior. Until planting the sapling, note to prune any twisted or matted roots from the root ball. Root pruning, contrary to popular belief, causes the release of compounds that promote root development.