Japanese Maple – Small Root Ball

Q: I planted a scrawny Japanese maple two years ago, digging a hole only a little bigger that the root ball. Now I’m worried it will not grow well due to the hard soil around the roots. Any options?

A: You can aerate and stimulate the root zone while the tree is in place. Mix a pint of Milorganite with a bag of soil conditioner in a wheelbarrow. Spread the mix in a thin layer over the root zone of your maple. Use a spading fork or pitchfork to repeatedly jab the soil deeply around the root area, wiggling the tool after each jab so some of the topdressing material falls into the holes. Repeat in three months and twice again next year. The maple will then have a very good root zone without having to replant it.