Q. Two of my Italian Cypress trees died so I am replacing them. What size do you suggest I buy and how to I prepare the area prior to planting and correct way to plant them?
A. Get the smallest plants you can find if that size is acceptable to you. I would start with five gallon plants if it were me. If I can find 1 gallon plants, I would plant them. If they are well cared-for they will catch up to five, 15 gallon plants and even larger in just a short time.
Amend the soil with about 50% compost and to a depth equal to the depth of the container. The soil should be modified a distance 3 to 5 times the diameter of the planting container.
It is more important to amend the soil on the perimeter of the container than the soil below the container. However, and this is a big however in our soils, if the soil is particularly hard to dig beneath the container then I would take a post hole digger and dig a chimney at the bottom of the container and fill that hole with amended soil to improve drainage.
Thoroughly wet the amended soil several times after you planted the trees. Five gallon plants should not need to be staked. With improved drainage they should be able to handle more frequent irrigations without problems.
If soils do not drain freely you will have problems with these trees in future years. Fertilize them once in January or February with an all-purpose tree and shrub fertilizer.
Put them on a valve with other trees and shrubs. They will do fine on the same valve with most of your landscape trees and large shrubs as well as fruit trees.