Tilling is the best way to break up your soil but is not always feasible. Using a garden spade or shovel, break up the soil and turn it over to a depth of about eight- to ten-inches. Mix organic matter such as soil conditioner, cow manure or mushroom compost into our heavily compacted clay soil. This will add “tilth” which provides available oxygen in the soil to benefit the plant’s root system. For poor drainage or soil texture (especially in clay soils), amend the soil with a backfill of 25-50% organic matter to help correct the drainage problems.
Before removing the plants from the pots, set them out in your planting space to determine spacing. Once spacing has been determined, dig your holes twice as wide and only as deep as the pot or root ball. The extra width will give the roots room to grow.
If the plant appears pot-bound, slightly disrupt the roots by pulling them outward to encourage growth and to prevent them from encircling the planting hole.
Partially fill the hole with the soil mixture. Place the plant in the hole at its original potted depth and use the remaining mixture to backfill around the plant. Firmly tamp the soil around the plant to make sure there are no air pockets.
Water thoroughly to settle the soil and add more soil if needed. Continue watering as often as it takes to keep the roots moist but not saturated. A regular watering schedule is critical during the first few weeks of planting. It is better to water deeply and thoroughly several times a week (as needed) rather than a little bit each day. Deep watering will encourage deep rooting, which in turn will make the plant healthier and stronger.
Uniformly apply a two- to four-inch layer of mulch, pinestraw, or bark to the soil surface. This will aid in moisture retention, weed control, and temperature regulation (keeping the soil cool in summer and insulating the soil in winter).