We want to cover the two main advantages pre-digging the holes for your Leyland Cypress trees, including how that effects productivity and how pre-digging can let you know if soil drainage is adequate. We also cover two disadvantages of pre-digging, including the extra work to clean out holes if it rains hard, and risk of some-one falling in an open hole overnight. We also cover some different soil types and how that effects watering schedule, from white sand all the way to the worst of all, pipe clay.
Pre-digging the Holes - productivity plus
There was a time that I would rent a Dingo, take Friday afternoon vacation, and went from job to job getting all my holes dug by dark on Friday evening. Starting first thing Sat am, the truck would come to those 3 or 4 sites, I would meet the truck at drop 1, unload those Leyland Cypress trees, follow the truck to drop #2, unload those Leyland Cypress trees, etc. You can leave two men at drop #1, have them complete that job then drive to drop #2 and plant those. You are the equipment operator, with one helper riding along. After you and your helper are finished unloading drop #4, you and him plant those Leyland Cypress trees, then drive to drop #3, plant those and all four jobs are complete. You will probably then drive to sites # one and # two to collect payment and check the work. In this case we could not have completed the 4 jobs on Saturday without having the holes pre-dug. We could not have asked the trucker to wait at each stop while we unloaded those Leyland Cypress trees, changed to the auger attachment, dug those holes, etc. You can hardly get a trucker to make 4 stops to begin with!
Two Disadvantages Pre-Digging
Remember that someone could be walking through the neighborhood at night and trip into a dug hole. If you are planting way out in the country this may not be an issue. I remember a job near Richmond VA at a corporation that was behind a large chain link fence, so I pre-dug the holes one week ahead of planting day. When we came back to plant we found it had rained a lot and washed about half of that loose dirt back in the holes. It took more work to "clean out" those holes by digging out the heavy mud than if we had dug them freshly.
Advantage of Pre-Digging - ensure your soil drains.
I also remember another planting job near Fort Washington, MD in a secure area, so I pre-dug the holes. The entire area was built up from fill dirt many years before. This soil would not drain at all. When I returned to look at the job, all holes were full of water, with deer tracks leading to each hole where deer had been drinking water from the holes. I was real glad I checked that site before the day the truck arrived, and re-scheduled the delivery for 1 week later. I explained the problem to my customer. We rented a Ditch Witch, and dug a small trench leading off of each holes so that it would drain well. Each hole looked like a comet with a tail on it. Those Leyland Cypress trees would have all died due to being planted in holes that would not drain. We would have never known it except for the pre-digging. In summary the advantages are; planting day will go quicker if the holes are pre-dug unless it rains hard and washes the loose dirt back into the holes. Another advantage is you will find out if the soil does not drain well and address it by pre-digging. If this is the only goal, you may want to just pre-dig a few and actually fill them with water using a hose. If you come back the next morning and they are still almost full, you have to address it before planting.
People ask me if Leyland Cypress will do well in red clay; they do fine in red clay, red clay drains very well Watch out if you see a grey clay soil while digging, sometimes it will be in a layer about one foot deep and is called pipe clay. Once wet it feels like Silly Putty in your hand. That layer below will cause water to accumulate and kill Leyland Cypress trees. Loamy soil found in the Hamptons area of Long Island drains very well, therefore Leyland Cypress trees planted there require more water than other soil types would require. If planting in a berm made with any decent top-soil will also drain well so therefore require additional water. Water as a guideline 5 gallons per tree twice per week for ten' trees. You could water 5 gallons three times per week during the first month if planted during hot weather, then cut back to 5 gallons twice per week. Leyland Cypress thrive in white sand and tolerate salt very well. I planted 13 big Leyland Cypress in Mantoloking, NJ in white sand, with seagulls flying overhead, my customer reported they were doing fine.
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