Fall is for Planting Your Garden
September is the best month to plant most hardy plants, like trees, shrubs and perennials. The soil is warm, the rains are usually plentiful, and the days are cooler. It's just what's needed to get new plantings well established for next year.
The planting process starts with proper soil amendments. With clay soil, add organic matter like compost, manure, and soil conditioner. With sandy soil, mix in compost, top soil and sphagnum peat, which is like a sponge, and can hold more than 20 times its weight in water. Also add compost for the nutrient value. Spread a two to four inch layer over the area and work it in well.
Next, dig a hole. The planting hole should be wide but not deep; two to three times as wide as the root ball is good. Planting too deep is one of the main reasons plants fail to grow.
Pull the new shrub out of its container and get ready to prune the roots to promote growth. Use a sharp blade to cut, rather than break the root ball apart with your fingers. Score the sides vertically every 3 to 5" around the root ball. Also break up the soil on the sides of the root ball to help new roots penetrate more easily. Leave the soil under the root ball alone. The plant will be more stable and the soil won't compact under the weight of the ball. If the soil compacts too much, plants can end up sunken into the ground.
If the plant has a root ball wrapped in burlap, set it carefully in the hole. Avoid holding the plant only by its trunk, as this puts all the weight of the soil on the roots and may cause damage. Place the plant in the hole and remove the burlap and rope from the top of the root ball, but leave the sides undisturbed, or damage may occur.Back fill the hole with soil, then water with a mixture of water and root stimulator. Soak the plant thoroughly. Then fill with more soil as it settles.
A light fertilizer application around Halloween is recommended every year.Water new plants deeply whenever you water. Soak the entire root ball, let the soil dry out about 2" down and then soak again. Be sure to water regularly, right up until the ground freezes, which may be mid-December or later.
Use an organic mulch, not stones, around plants. Wood or bark mulch acts as an insulator, whereas stone can conduct heat and cold into the root zone, stressing plants. Bark mulch acts as a barrier to help keep moisture in the ground. The cost of the mulch is easily made up in watering costs and time spent weeding. Remember to keep the mulch at least one inch away from the trunk.
Mulch should cover the roots and the ground between the plants, with a slight bowl shape around the plants themselves. The bowl helps keep water close to the plant in a reservoir and lets the water soak in slowly. The common volcano shape of mulch around a tree can actually harm a tree by keeping a trunk's bark too wet, causing rot.
Don't forget to look up when planting a tree so it doesn't grow into wires. Call Miss Dig to make sure you're not digging into any wires or pipes!
Use these techniques all year, whenever planting. Take advantage now because...fall is for planting!