Correct planting gives shrubs and trees a head start

Of course, YOU’D never say something like that. But maybe you’ve heard someone else say it, though not in so many words.

The fact is that young trees and shrubs are at their most vulnerable when you are planting them in your landscape. You need to devote some TLC to this stage of their life, and the particular TLC you apply will depend quite largely on how you receive your new “babies:” bare root, balled and burlapped or container-grown.

The other major concern with new plants is soil quality. 

Today, we’ll take a quick look at the three different planting methods. Adopt the correct method for planting and you will definitely put the odds for success in your favor!

Bare root As a general rule, bare root plants are available only in the spring. When you receive bare root plants, they should be loosely wrapped in some kind of moist material. Keep them away from heat and direct sunlight and keep them slightly moist (but not drenched) until you’re ready to plant.

Dig a hole large enough so the plant’s roots have room to spread out and don’t curve back up the sides of the hole. Hold the plant so the crown is a couple of inches above the level of the surrounding bed or lawn (to allow for settlement) then add backfill and water carefully and slowly. Resist the temptation to “tamp” the backfill!

Balled and burlapped Remember the different soil types from the previous column? Here’s where knowing your soil type becomes particularly important. If you have sandy soil, dig a hole no deeper than the root ball. However, if the soil is predominantly clay, dig the hole about 2 or 3 inches shallower than the ball.

The hole needs to be saucer-shaped and shallower than the bare root hole. In sandy soil, make the hole about 3 times wider than the root ball; for clay soil the hole should be even wider. Remove all the netting and other wrapping materials from the top and sides of the root ball. You can leave all that stuff on the bottom if you wish. If it came in a wire basket, place it in the hole and then remove the top 2/3 of the wire. Be sure there is no twine around the trunk or across the top of the root ball. Back fill into the hole and water slowly. Thereafter, water when the soil feels dry at a depth of 4 to 6 inches and avoid frequent, light watering!

Container grown Container-grown stock has usually been growing for one or two seasons before you receive it, which gives you the advantage of a head-start on growth in many cases. You will need to remove the container before planting, but be sure to dig your hole before removing the container!

When you have removed the plant from its container, lay it on its side close to the hole. Cut or gently separate and straighten any “circling” roots to prevent them girdling the plant as it grows. Place the plant in the hole, backfill and water. You can gently tamp the soil if necessary.

This is really just a brief overview to give you an idea of the different planting requirements of your new plants. They are a real investment so take the time to learn the best way to get them started on the right course. Send me an e-mail if you need advice about planting a specific tree or shrub.

I recommend that you visit the following Web sites that contain excellent and complete planting information and helpful diagrams: