There’s a saying that the best time to plant a tree was yesterday. Because as we all know, trees and shrubs play such a big part in how we feel about our surroundings, how active, healthy and optimistic we are, even how much value we place on a space. A wooded lot has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
We climb trees, swing from them, sit in their shade, use them as landmarks, meeting spots and respite from a fast-moving digital world. Trees and plants even make the air we breathe cleaner. Shel Silverstein beautifully personified them in all their glory in the unforgettable story, The Giving Tree. We happen to think all trees are giving trees.
When you plant a tree, shrub or any kind of plant, you are creating something—a refuge, a beautiful spot with seasonal interest, a place that is unique, private, alive and enduring. Planting is important.
It’s also important to know a few things before you choose your tree, shrub or plant and where you’ll plant it. Here are 5 of the most important things we’ve learned over the years:
1) Location matters
You hear this all of the time from realtors, that location is one of the first and most important things to consider. Because once you choose, it gets much tougher (and more expensive) to make a change.
So that tag on the tree or plant that tells you how big your plant will grow? Believe it. We understand you want to fill an empty spot sooner than later, but you won’t be doing yourself any favors by planting too close to the house, a neighbor’s yard or an entryway. You’ll also be saving yourself a lot of time in pruning if you plant with mature size in mind.
That tag—and smart, friendly plant people in a garden center—will also tell you how much sun/shade your plant will need to thrive. You want to pay attention to this, because it will affect how and how quickly your tree or plant grows, how many branches and blooms it develops and generally how well it will do in your outdoor space.
Give some thought to your view, now and over time. Do you want to screen your yard from the road or neighbors as quickly as possible? A fast-growing tree is your friend if you have the space. But if you’re planting near a window, the road, or a neighbor’s driveway, you may want to consider how tall or wide your plant will be when it’s mature, and that it’s not blocking your or someone else’s view.
A flowering tree or plant is always nice near a window or patio, especially a fragrant one. And layering your plants so that they bloom at different times and grow to different heights and sizes, gives you year-round interest and fullness in your landscape.
2) Good soil, good plants
Cincinnati soil has its fair share of clay, which isn’t ideal when it comes to encouraging healthy root development and overall growth. So it’s best to start with nutrient rich soil to give your plants the support they need.
Think of it as mixing up a time-release protein shake for your growing plants, one that encourages healthy growth now and over time. See #3 for the products we use when we plant for you or plant at home in our own yards.
3) Plant, don’t bury
What we’re really trying to say is don’t plant too deep.
The rule of thumb is to dig a hole that is approximately twice as wide as the width of the root ball or container and deep enough for the root ball to sit flush with the top of the hole.
We can’t recommend this step enough. It’s where people most often cut corners and, trust us, it can make or break the development and longevity of your plant.
So after you’ve dug your hole, we recommend adding Espoma Bio-Tone Plant Starter* to the bottom to stimulate root growth. Then mix your loose soil with equal parts Miracle Gro Garden Soil* and Pine Soil Conditioner*.
*see package for more information
Loosen the soil in your container by tapping the container on the ground and gently pressing the sides. Depending upon the size of your tree or plant, it may be a one or two-person job to support the plant while tipping the container and sliding out the root ball.
Gently loosen/rough up the roots with your hands to free them up or cut entangled roots down vertically. For ball or burlapped material, cut cords or ropes, but leave the material and wire cage around the ball for ultimate protection.
After amending the soil, you’re ready to place the plant in the hole. Remember, keep the top of the root ball flush with the top of the hole. Back fill the hole with your enriched soil and use your foot or hoe to gently tamp down the soil and eliminate air pockets.
Most people are good at this one. But bear with us for a few pointers that can help make things better for your plants and for you.
Slow and steady wins the race here. Water your new plants slowly and generously, being sure to wet the soil to the depth of the original container or root ball (you can get a good idea by using a finger to ensure you’re watering more than the surface).
All newly planted items should be thoroughly soaked at least once a week from spring until the ground freezes in fall (more frequently in very hot weather). This is another good reason to plant in fall—you won’t have to water incessantly through the hottest summer months.
We recommend watering larger trees and shrubs by hose turned to a slow drizzle for 20-30 minutes. Very small plants, such as groundcover, perennials and flowering annuals have smaller root systems and will require a deep, thorough watering every 3-4 days.
5) Feeding and Adding the Finishing Touches
It’s funny, but most people remember to give their living plants water, but just as many forget to feed them. Honestly, this is one of the reasons plants look so good in the garden center and can often fizzle out at home.
For most plants, you can follow package directions on your fertilizer of choice, but here’s our cheat sheet for best results:
For all evergreens apply Holly Tone* once in spring and once in fall
Deciduous Trees and Shrubs
Miracle Gro Tree and Shrub Plant Food Spikes in April and after leaf drop in fall
Miracle Gro Liqui-Feed* in April
Osmocote* in mid-March and again 6 weeks later
For best results, use a water-soluble fertilizer like Jack’s once a week to promote growth and blooms. We like to pick a day where we combine with another weekly to-do, like taking out the trash. Or you can even write a reminder on your watering can.
* follow package directions
The Finishing Touch
If you’ve read this far, you’re serious about having beautiful plants and trees in your yard. Because you know how much they matter.
So finish the job with a 2-3-inch layer of quality hardwood mulch, being careful not to pack too tightly up against the plant base or tree trunk. It won’t just look nice; the organic hardwood mulch will be an ongoing source of nutrients to your plants and trees as it breaks down in the soil.
Too much work?
And if all of this sounds like too much work, just ask us to help you choose the right trees and plants for your yard and long-term goals. We’d even be happy to deliver to your door.