Get out & grow!

Published on Thu, Apr 10, 2003
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Get out & grow!

Planting nursery stock in April

by Michelle Ensinger

Balled and burlapped.
When planting into the ground, one can either eye ball the top of the root mass or place a stick across the top of the ground to determine that the root mass should be at the same level as the rod, which is the placement at the top of the root mass.

All rope, string or twine should be removed, and anything that is binding to the trunk area. Burlap can stay on the root ball, but if the fabric holding the root ball is synthetic, it needs to be removed. The burlap should not be pulled away from the root system, as damage to the roots would possibly occur.

When planting, ensure the top of the root system is at the same level as the ground (or rod) but pull back the burlap and fold it over on the sides of the root ball so that it will not rot. Otherwise it creates a dry root barrier and wicks moisture into the air, and away from the roots system.

Remove packing materials and when checking the roots, cut away drying, dead or any diseased tissue areas. Soak root area in water (to which I usually add a diluted amount of liquid kelp) for a minimum of one hour, however I find at least six to 10 hours is better for the plant. Damaged branches, those that are at a trunk angle of 45 degrees or less and crossed branches need to be pruned. Note that the high point angle on pruning is the direction of the new growth.

Container grown.
All pots, regardless of the type of material, should be removed before planting. Peat pots or papier-mache pots can potentially wick moisture away from the root system.

Upon removing the the root ball from the container, check for any roots that circle around the root system. These roots will continue to encircle the pot even after planted into the ground, so loosen the trim back to encourage rooting and spreading. If the root system is dense, roughen up the roots by running a knife down the sides and across the bottom to encourage spreading. I have seen trees and shrubs that were not given this TLC, and three or four years down the road, you could pull out the tree as the roots continued to wind around themselves and even trees, unless the roots have been properly tended to, can be uprooted just by the winds.

Also, remember to check for girdling roots. These roots wrap around the base of the trunk and can strangle the plant as well as hinder the plant�s water intake. Thee roots must be completely removed to just below the soil level where it started its journey above ground. Remember to remove any damaged, crossed branches, and to cut back unhealthy or dead/damaged roots to healthy tissue. Set the plant into the hole as per balled and burlapped planting instructions.

I strongly recommend to check your soil before planting, especially in new development areas or if you obtain soil from an area/person and are unsure of its pH. This is very important, as some plants require an acidic soil, some an alkaline soil. You also need to check its characteristics. Is it loose or compact? Is it rocky, chalky, shallow? What about its drainage capabilities? Is the land sloped, does water sit in certain areas?

Different plants have different tolerances and requirements, and as checking into the requirements of soil, exposures, water, etc. may seem time consuming, what is your cost factor, planting time, plant replacement cost factors, if you have the wrong tree in the wrong location?

Ensure when planting, that you will be able to water your plants when required (I highly recommend drip systems as flowers and bark don�t need the water, the roots do) especially during dry spells or when newly planted.

Other Factors.
When planting, check the final growth heights/widths of your plants. Also check your tree shape � round, columnar, pyramidal, weeping, open, oval, spreading or vase shape. Instead of pruning to change a shape of a plant, many different varieties may satisfy your requirements from the start. Then check to see if you are planting near power lines, underground utilities, driveways and remember when planting near a house, will the tree/plant have to be cut back or removed for any maintenance � gutters, painting, repairs and will it be blocking any views? Will any neighbors be complaining because of its size? There are many plants that one can select which are dwarf varieties available to you which may be more appropriate for your yard.

Group planting.
When plant areas are arranged together in beds, they create their own microclimate (their requirements need to be the same). The humidity in the area is increased, roots are shaded, maintenance, weeding, mulching, fertilizing and water is more efficient than those plants which are planted individually. Since lawn mower/weed eater damage is the leading causes of mechanical injury to trees, planting in groups will help alleviate this issue, especially if one creates a mulch bed around the area.

Filling in the Hole.
Backfill into the area with native soil and if the plant is more alkaline loving, check the pH of the soil and also from where you will be purchasing it. I have personally called and checked many places which deliver/provide different soils. Most do not know their soil contents as they are taken from construction sites of fields. I am not saying this is how all of the business operates, but by checking their weeds from their soils in the growing season, one can be assured that this soil was not screened. Using unscreened soil is extremely time consuming when one has to go back and weed these areas again and again instead of continuing on with one�s gardening regime.

Roots must be encouraged to grow past the confines of the planting hole, especially in poor soil areas.

After filling in the hole, firm the soil with your hands, making a dish around the edges of the hole to hold water in the area directed around the root system, then cover about 2 - 3 inches with mulch.

A few interesting plants you may want to consider if they are compatible with your area are: clumping heritage river birch � the bark is the interesting feature, amura maple � shrub maple, variegated red twig dogwood, pin oak, weeping cherries � the white and pink varieties are really eye catching.

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