Question: How much soil preparation will I need to do when I plant my trees and shrubs? How will that differ from what I do for my flowers and vegetables?
Answer: The smaller the mature plant, the more you should be willing to give it heroic soil preparation prior to planting. That would mean that you should always choose large shade trees that will grow willingly in your existing soil. There simply is no practical way of amending the soil for a tree’s entire mature root system. Preparing special soil for the initial planting hole of, for example, an East Texas pine in alkaline soils of Central or West Texas, would only buy the tree a few years before its roots extended out beyond the initial mix. In other words, don’t try it! Large shrubs probably fall into the same category, but, for smaller shrubs such as gardenias and azaleas, you can actually import their total planting mix. By the time you’re preparing for small plants such as annual and perennial flowers and vegetables you’ll be able to provide anything they need. In fact, if your native soils are heavy clays, you’ll probably want to develop a planting mix that resembles a commercial potting soil, and you’ll certainly want to plant into raised beds to ensure good drainage.