- Plants should be well hydrated prior to planting and especially for transplanting.
- Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball of the plant, and approximately the same depth. Often described as dish shaped.
- Try not to leave the rim of the planting hole smooth as this may contribute to 'circling' roots, particularly in larger trees.
- Soils rich in organic matter (compost or peat moss) will assist plants in establishing faster and also produce more vigorous growth. It is highly unlikely you will use too much compost. 1/3 to 1/2 organic matter is a good rule of thumb, mixed with your existing soil and other conditioners mentioned below.
- Soils also need to have good drainage, so incorporating (mixing in) sand or perlite increases air spaces in the soil, improving drainage and aeration.
- Mix your soil amendments thoroughly with existing soil.
- Carefully remove your plant from its container. If the plant is 'root bound' (densely matted roots) significantly tease/scuff/scar/score the exterior roots to loosen them up and stimulate new outward growth into the new soil. If the plants roots have not filled the container yet, then handle carefully, attempting to hold the root ball in tact. Gently place the root ball in the hole. Disturbing these young roots may contribute to 'transplant' shock.
- Place the plant carefully in the hole and adjust for straightness and viewing direction. View your plant from more than one angle to insure straightness.
- Backfill the amended soil. Tamp the soil in or use water to alleviate air pockets around the root ball. The top of the original root ball should be even with the ground once planted, or slightly higher (1" - 2" normally, or 2" - 3" max for larger trees) where poor soils persist. Bring the backfill soil up to the top edge of the root ball. Do not add soil over the top of the original root ball as this will tent to suffocate the roots and cause root rot or simply drown the plant. Plants too high will dry out too fast and sometimes become 'wobbly' in the ground.
- Include Espoma Bio-Tone - Organic plant starter when you mix your soil. This is a tremendous boost to the plant roots and Mycorrhize, which have a symbiotic relationship that assists plants with the absorption of nutrients and water from the soil.
- For larger plants and plants which like moisture, and dry periods, build a 'water ring' or basin just outside (never on top) of the original root ball using the extra soil. This will enable you to fill the water ring with water, allowing it to soak down deeper into the hole, thus watering the entire root ball. Irrigation systems do not saturate the ground deep enough for larger plantings and should therefore be supplemented by hand watering.
- In normal weather, water deeply every other day for 30 days, then gradually diminish your water schedule. Most plants can be established in the first 30 days if diligent watering has occurred. Also water the soil just outside the root ball so that the drier soil does not wick water away from the plant. This will also encourage roots to seek out the new soil.
- In weather over 90 degrees, water daily.The plant is totally dependent on you until it can establish new roots into the surrounding soil. The plant will dry out daily under these temperatures.
- Plants can be planted year round here. Only when the soil is saturated (wait until it dries out some) or when the ground is frozen (brief occurrences in the winter if at all) should you wait to plant.
- Apply fertilizer, preferably a slow release within the water ring area or within the 'drip line' of the plant.
- Mulch the surface using your favorite mulch to inhibit weed development, insulate the roots from extreme temperatures and to help maintain ground moisture. And it looks nicer too. Never pile mulch or soil up high on a plants trunk or stems. Mulch can be applied up to 3" deep for effective weed control.
- Apply pre-emergent weed controls to beds or plantings for long term weed control.
- Water thoroughly all parts of the root ball to purge air pockets and activate the pre-emergents. Fill the water ring several times.
Balled and Burlaped Plants (B&B)
- Some extra care and steps are necessary when handling B&B plants. Root balls tend to be very heavy so handle carefully for both your benefit and the plants.
- A dropped root ball will crack and cause roots to become dislodged from the soil, exposing them to air and dehydration. Plus the trunk will become loose and likely require staking.
- B&B plants are field grown then dug, placed into a wire basket (for larger sizes) and wrapped with burlap. Most nurseries use untreated burlap which will rot once adequate moisture gets to it. Sometimes you may find treated burlap or nylon burlap which does not readily rot and must be removed, as it would inhibit root development.
- Cut the burlap from the top of the root ball and remove any ropes or ties around the trunk. Peel the basket back as much as you can to help keep it below the surface. Generally you will not be able to remove the wire basket. Do not leave any burlap sticking out of the ground, it will wick moisture from the soil and it is unsightly.
- Follow the instructions above for amending soil, planting and watering. B&B trees may require staking as root development takes longer due to the digging process and the size of the root ball.
- There are numerous methods of staking. Key tips are - keep loosely around the trunk. Only keep the stakes on for a year. If it is still needed after that, readjust the tension so it remains loose around the trunk. Stake in the direction of prevailing winds and drive the stakes into undisturbed soil for firmess.
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