Plant a Plant

There are certain rules that should be understood and followed whether you are planting a tiny Seed or a 15' Tree. These rules are usually mentioned in the planting instructions, but seldom explained. We will attempt an explanation.

It is usually best to buy Plants with lots of new Leaf and Flower BUDS rather than lots of new mature growth. This is especially true of Flowering Plants, if you want to enjoy the Blooms at your home. Also buy plants early in the season before they have been handled and picked over by customers and possibly neglected by the store.  Those planted in the cool days of Spring will do much better and require much less care than those that are planted in the hot, dry days of Summer.

The less time spent between leaving the Nursery and planting in Mother Earth, the better their chances of vigorous new growth. And a Plant dug out at a Nursery will do  better than one that has spent weeks and months in a truck or on a store display. Some of this success is due to the superior root system. We suggest buying Plants from a store with a 1-year Growth Guarantee. Save your dated sales receipt.

Rule #1:
When you bring a plant home from your Garden Center, 
tend to it immediately and plant it as soon as possible. 

Most rooted plants and trees will benefit from being submerged in water until all bubble activity stops. This will ensure that the Roots and Rootlets are not allowed to dry out further than they already have. Liquid Plant Food may be a more beneficial bath.

Trees and shrubs that are too large to submerge should have their foliage sprayed with water for the same reason. Then keep them in a cool shady place, preferably out of the wind. You can further protect them with plastic until you get them planted.

Many seeds have hard coats that may benefit from soaking them overnight in warm water. This procedure may result in quicker and more complete sprouting. 

Rule #2:
Loosen or till the soil in an area larger than the seed, plant, or roots you are planting. The reason for this is to allow roots to spread out, and to make it easy for the new rootlets to penetrate the soil in their search for those elements that are necessary for their survival. Equate this to removing a Lock that is on your refrigerator door.

For Trees and some larger Shrubs, you will dig a considerable hole. The sides should be straight (plumb) and the bottom should be flat (level). If you dig past Topsoil into Subsoil, you will notice a change of soil appearance. Topsoil is usually darker. Put these two soil types in two distinct piles or containers. Plan to have the plant at the same depth it was growing in the nursery.

A Plastic Tarp laid on the grass to pile the soil will greatly simplify Cleanup.


Rule #3:
If you are planting rooted stock, create a soil "Cone" in the planting hole which will allow the roots to spread downward and outward naturally. If the roots are not growing symmetrically, the Cone should not be centered in the hole, but directly under the stem or trunk. You may want to examine the foliage now, to determine its "best face" which will determine the orientation of the Roots and Cone.

Fill the hole with water, being careful not to disturb the Cone. This is done to saturate the surrounding soil so it does not absorb moisture from the sifted soil in the hole. While the water is dissipating, remove the larger stones and debris from the Topsoil that you removed. These can be picked out by hand, or a Sifter can be used for this purpose. A Sifter is a very useful addition to your Garden Shed.

For Trees and large Shrubs, pound three equally-spaced stakes into undisturbed soil at the edge of the planting hole. Tie cords to each stake to support the plant for several months until the roots take hold.

Prune the Roots and Foliage. 
Remove damaged roots, but save any tiny feeder rootlets when possible. They are the life line of the plant. Pruning the top growth may be even more important than pruning the roots. Nurseries tend to save every leaf to impress customers, but the transplanting loss of roots may be unable to support lavish foliage.

Rule #4:
When the water has dissipated, put a 1-inch layer of Topsoil in the hole. Then position the plant over the Cone and tie the cords to the trunk to support it temporarily. The plant should be vertical in the hole; a Level or Plumb Bob can be used for this purpose, or it can be oriented by eye, using nearby buildings or utility poles as a guide.

There is controversy surrounding the addition of Fertilizers or Compost in the planting hole when planting Trees and Shrubs. Opponents suggest that the roots may grow in this limited area, rather than reaching out of the hole for nutrients which would make a larger, more stable support platform. Using Topsoil should provide a happy medium.

Now put the Topsoil in the hole over the roots. Then add the Subsoil. This will put the high-nutrient Topsoil in the area of the roots, and the Subsoil on top to slow down the growth of weeds. You can also place one or several Watering Tubes in the planting hole prior to back filling, as shown above.

Tamp every 3-inch layer of soil with your shoes, being careful not to damage bark or roots in the process. It is important that the soil be in firm contact with the roots to allow them to extract water and nutrients from the soil. Pockets of air will impede this extraction process and the resulting growth.

You can build a berm or basin using the Subsoil to contain rain or irrigation water. A 6-inch layer of mulch will help protect the loosened soil from the drying effects of Sun and wind. Landscaping Fabric placed under the Mulch will stop weeds, but admit water.  Trunk Guards will help protect trees from rodents, trimmers and mowers.

Rule #5:
Place a Protector between the trunk and supporting cords on trees. It can be made of any material that will prevent the cords from damaging the young trunk. A rubber hose slit lengthwise works well. It should completely encircle the trunk, but not be tight.

Plants will benefit by protection from the drying effects of Sun and wind. Plastic supported above a row of Garden Vegetables or draped over a shrub or tree will help to retain moisture. A daily foliage dampening from your Garden Hose will also be beneficial. This is best done in the early morning to avoid Fungal Diseases.

Water the plant lavishly every day for the first week. After that , weekly watering should suffice until you see new growth forming. From then on, watering can be done at the same time as the watering of nearby plants.

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