Planting techniques

Giving plants a healthy start begins with proper planting. Problems showing up on established plants can often be traced back to poor plantings. Our staff here at Landcare Logic is trained to reflect the current research and technology.

A key to sustainable planting is matching the plant and the conditions at the site. Plants vary naturally in their ability to tolerate site conditions such as extreme heat or cold, sun or shade, wet or dry soils. The plant also should not out grow the space it is to be planted in.

Installing trees and shrubs involves more than just digging a hole. The quality of the hole will determine the long term health of the root system, and thereby the entire plant. In general the planting hole should be 18 to 24 inches wider in diameter than the rootball. If the soil is compacted or of poor quality, the hole should be even larger, as much as 3 to 5 times wider than the root ball. The hole should be wider at the top than the bottom, with sloped walls, because most of the growth will be shallow and horizontal. The planting hole should be 2 to 3 inches less than the depth of the rootball. Planting too deeply can stress the plant and drown or suffocate the roots. The easiest way to avoid this is to never dig the hole deeper than the rootball.

Soft fill should not be left in the bottom of the hole, as the plant will settle. In almost all types of soil, the tree or shrubs should be planted slightly shallow, with the top 2 to 3 inches of the rootball sitting above the surrounding surface grade.

While backfilling the hole, work the soil around the rootball so that no air pockets remain. Large pockets of air can allow roots to dry out. Firm the soil so that the plant is vertical and adequately supported, but do not pack the soil. Water thoroughly while backfilling. The remaining soil should be mounded into a berm to collect water over the root zone.

Cover the planting area with 2 to 4 inches of organic mulch. This will conserve soil moisture, moderate soil temperature extremes, and reduce competition from weeds and turf. Make certain the mulch is not touching the plant stem, as this could promote bark decay, crown rot, or winter injury.

During planting, most trees and shrubs recover slowly. The plant must reestablish sufficient roots to sustain itself. During this period, the plant’s ability to obtain and transport water and minerals is greatly reduced, which results in varying degrees of water stress and transplant shock. For this reason, proper watering is key to the survival of newly planted trees and shrubs. Generally 1 inch of water a week is required. The watering schedule should be appropriate for the soil type and drainage. Avoid excess watering as this is the leading cause of death in newly planted landscapes.

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