How to Dig a Hole?
Might seem a silly question! You get a spade and push it in the ground, lift out some soil, or something like that.
We have had a couple customers who were having difficulties getting Laurel started in heavy clay. After a bit of discussion it turns out that they had both hired an auger to drill holes in the ground to plant in. When they dug a plant up to see what the problem was, they both said that the roots had not spread out from the root ball into the soil.
Remember the pottery scene in 'Ghost', and then imagine the earth spins round and the auger stays still. So what the auger has made is a clay pot for the Laurel to grow in, with polished sides that the roots cannot get into.
So what I recommend when digging a hole is to make it have a few corners, and if you have heavy clay mix some sharp sand into the clay to break it up a bit. Roots are designed to grow outwards, but they also take the path of least resistance, so if they hit a corner they will push into it and get into the earth, whereas they can happily travel round and round in a circle.
Interestingly enough I was talking to an old landscaper the other day and he was saying that he had been on a course recently where he was taught that the latest thinking among the horticultural elite is to dig square holes for planting, not round ones. Sadly the instructor made it sound more like the need to use a template than giving a good reason and incurred some mockery.