Q: We have transplanted a young lilac bush in our yard and would like to know how to prepare the ground & bush for the winter in northern Indiana. Thank you.
A: There's an old saying: "Dig a 2 dollar hole for a 1 dollar plant."
This saying remains true today. How a tree will fare its entire life depends tremendously on how well it is planted and then cared for.
Measure the diameter of the root ball -- the hole should be at least 1 1/2 times this (2 times is even better). So if the root ball is 1 foot in diameter, the hole should be 1 1/2 feet in diameter or more. Thoroughly break up the backfill, and place it firmly in the "trench" around the edges of the rootball.
You can tamp it down by either walking on it or using water. You want the soil to be firm but not compacted -- just pack it in nicely so that there aren't voids.
The top of the root ball should be at or slightly above grade. Planting too deep has probably killed more trees that anyone realizes. I've had many people comment to me that they "really dug it in deep!" Probably one of the worst things you can do! I've seen too many dead or dying trees that were "dug in deep."
Apply 2-3" of mulch over the soil AFTER giving it a good, thorough watering. Keep the mulch away from the trunk by a few inches.
As for the plant itself, there's not much you need to do. If you prepares its bed properly, it should be quite happy with that.
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