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Shopping for a new tree or shrub from a garden center is an exciting experience. All of the different possibilities in size, form, leaf appearance and flower color can make your imagination run wild. But after you've made your selection, had your plant loaded up and transported safely home, there's some work to do! Careful planting practices will ensure that the newest member of your garden family gets established quickly and comfortably.
Today, nursery and greenhouse plants can come in several ways. Burlped root ball, plastic containers, or bare root are all methods of supplying nursery plants depending on the size and type of the plant as well as the season. The following instructions are appropriate for balled and burlap (B&B) and container plantings, all the way from a little 2 inch geranium pot to a 20 foot maple tree.
Step 1 Preparing Hole and Soil
"Measure twice, cut once". The planting hole size is one of the most important aspects of transplanting successfully, so before you get our your shovel, get out a tape measure. The hole should be at least twice as wide as the root ball and a little deeper than the root ball is tall. Ultimately, you want the top of the root ball to be level with the ground. With smaller plants, it is well and good to put the plant in the hole to check your progress while digging. With large trees this may not be possible, so get our your tape measure!
While digging, place soil in wheelbarrow or on tarp for easier mixing and backfilling. When the hole is dug to the correct width and depth, begin mixing new soil into the old soil. Add 1/3 new topsoil and 1/3 peat moss to 1/3 of the old soil (you will have old soil left over, think of a place to put it before digging, perhaps a low spot in the lawn or on the compost pile). Mix the soil thoroughly but carefully as peat moss tends to blow around. Adding a bit of water to the mixture can help this, but avoid adding too much because it will make the soil too heavy to backfill properly. Place some of this soil mix in the bottom of the hole so that when root ball is placed in the hole, the top of the ball will be about 1 inch above final grade. This procedure allows for settling of freshly dug soil. Before backfilling, make certain the planting level is correct.
Step 2 Placement and Preparing Root ball
If the plant is in a plastic container, remove the plant from the container and slice the root ball vertically 1 inch deep with a knife in 3 to 4 places. Firm the soil in the bottom of the hole and place plant in the hole. Be sure to take a good look at the plant to identify which side or "face" of the plant is the nicest and orient that face in the direction that gets the most attention. Avoid pulling on any branches when adjusting the position of the plant, grip the plant by the root ball. (On larger trees, keep the orientation of the tree in mind before setting the tree in the hole as later adjustment may be difficult).
Only after the plant is in the hole and oriented correctly can you begin removing cord and burlap. All twine on the top of the root ball should be removed, especially around the trunk. The cloth burlap should be removed from around the trunk. Take care not to nick the trunk if using a knife to cut the twine and burlap. The excess cloth burlap can remain in the hole if tucked around the side of the root ball. After backfilling, no cloth burlap should remain exposed. On large trees or heavy root balls, a metal cage may be in place to help keep the root ball intact. This should not be removed.
Step 3 Backfilling
Fill the hole halfway with soil. Press the soil in with hands. Tamp firmly, but not too firmly. The goal is not compaction but simply the elimination of air pockets. Add remaining soil to the top of the surrounding surface and tamp one last time. If the hole was dug to the proper depth, the soil will fill the sides around the root ball and come up to level ground. No soil should go on top of the root ball. This is one of the most common mistakes in planting. The only thing that should go on top of the root ball is organic mulch (wood chips, shredded bark).
Step 4 Watering
Plants should be watered gently but deeply immediately after planting. New plants should then be watered once every day for the first week, then twice a week through the remainder of the growing season. A thorough soaking at these intervals is far more effective than light and frequent waterings from sprinklers or irrigation systems. A good simple method is to place a hose without any attachments a few inches from the trunk. Water should flow at a very slow trickle as this will allow water to sink into the roots without running off. Allow water to flow for one hour depending on the size of the plant. Do not use a forceful stream of water as this can cause soil structure to break down and become hard-baked when dry.
Please call us at 614 889 1314 if you have any questions regarding care & maintenance of your plants, trees & shrubs. We are always happy to help you with all of your garden, lawn & plant care needs.