Should I amend the soil?

All my previous experience in tree growing was in a place of former garden beds, so question about amendment never came up. Today I am preparing holes for trees that should arrive on Wednesday: apricot, 2 Japanese plums and peach. I took off top portion of the lawn and it looks like a descent loam, somewhat on the sandy side.

Below it the soil is much more yellow. What you see on the picture is the soil already mixed with some of the top brown layer.

What would be the best for the trees here? I have a lot of compost I can use , just not sure what would be a proper procedure here. If I don’t need to amend the soil, should I at least mix brown and yellow soil together and if so, to what depth?

General advice for such decent-looking soil is to not amend, but rather to top-dress with amendments or mulch after planting.

What is the expected size of your new tree’s roots? If the planting holes to be dug are far deeper than the sandy loam layer, then there would not be significant mixing because there would be way more yellow material and relatively little loam.


The loam portion is about a foot deep. This is about how deep the hole is now, I don’t have the tees yet. I found video from Raintree Nursery. They suggest 3’ wide 1’ deep hole and add compost in amount of 1/3 of the original soil dug out. Their loam looks deeper than mine, so it shouldn’t be too much of compost. If I need to dug more subsoil, I will need to grab the topsoil somewhere else to compensate.

, Larry’s advice is a general practice for fruit trees. They don’t need rich soil.

Your subsoil looks like mine, yellow clay, I think. My top, good soils is only about 4” deep ( new development lot of cheap soil was used).

My trees were fine until last year when many apples showed blemishes in their flesh. I researched the issue and it looked like phosphorus deficiency. I dug up soil and will send it to UMass for soil test when I get around to it.


I would also take a shovel and score the edges of the planting hole to loosing it up as well.

I think more important than amendments is to keep the grass and weeds off. After planting and it leafs out for a few weeks, finer roots should have grown out and you can always give it liquid fertilizer.


I agree with Larrygene, but you know what? Spring for a soil test and take the guesswork out of it.

You can’t tell by looking if your soil or compost is deficient in Boron or whatever, so test.

Get the numbers and proceed accordingly.

The price of the test is pretty commensurate with the price of the trees these days, especially if you take into account the labor and time inputs.


Drainage is important for fruit trees. Drowned roots get diseases. I originally had horrific clay. It’s gotten better over the last 14 years I’ve lived here by mulching wood chips. They need fungal soils to grow wood. I agree with everyone above: you don’t want to “instantly” perfect your soil. I added gravel in the hole when I planted fruit trees, because they drown in heavy clay and lots of rain, which we get in the winter and spring. That’s drainage, not nutrition. I make my orchard areas grass free, so the trees get the nutrition and you’re cultivating a real soil microbiome within a permaculture ecology. I want mushrooms, lots of different flowers to attract pollinators and good guy insects, as well as worms. I think it’s better to heal the soil over time by a diverse guild of plants and letting the wood chips build a diverse soil food web.

John S


I have shallow good top soil in most places here… like 3 or 4 inches and then red rocky clay… that is stickey too.

I make a borderles raised bed with each planting and mix in a heap of compost … some balanced organic fertilizer… bone meal gypsum greensand epsom salt.

And i top dress with more compost and then wood chip mulch.

Nothing has ever complained about being started off like that. In fact excellent growrh happens.

Well i did have a apricot once that refused to grow…got rid of it.

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I dig a hole, plant tree and replace with native soil. I then put a metric boatload of mulch around the tree.

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Unfortunately, trees are coming tomorrow, no time for that

I think you will be fine, happy planting.

If you see deficiencies in leaves, you could try some broad spectrum foliar spray later on. Or top dress w/ appropriate amendments.

If you put wood chips down, they will also breakdown in two years and provide nice nutrients.

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