Planting Notes

Make sure you place plant at ground level or slightly higher than than finish grade!


Groundcover flats, 6-packs, 4" pots:

Prepare the space to be planted by loosening soil to at least an 8" depth

and mixing in compost or amendment, and starter fertilizer if desired.

You will have far more success if you amend the area well.  Small plants, like

those from flats, 6-packs, or 4" pots, have tiny roots that appreciate nice soil.

Flats:Cut up the flat like a cake or tear into plant sections desired.  There are  

usually 25-50 small groundcover plants per flat, although you may plant more 

than one plant per clump if you'd like with most groundcover plant types.

Plant these plants immediately after cutting them apart at appropriate 

spacings; water the planting to root saturation as soon as possible, this means you'll need to water slowly. Check to see that the water soaked to root level.

6-packs, 4" pots: Squeeze the outside of each cell and pop the plants out of the pots; check root health. Gently break up edges of roots if roots are circling.

Water planting gently and thoroughly - if the water runs off too fast you

will either have to water more slowly or water several times with breaks in

between to allow the water to soak in.


1 -15 gallon planting containers: 

The hole: Excavate a pit which is at least 2 - 3 times the diameter of the rootball and the same depth - no deeper.  If hole is very dry, fill it with water and let it drain or at least wet the sides.  For best  root development, enlarge the planting area by removing existing turf or weeds, then spading or tilling

soil in a wide ring around planting.  Handle plant by the root ball, not the

trunk.  Be sure the rootball or container soil rests on solid ground (so the . 

plant doesn't settle too low). If plant is in burlap, carefully cut twine wrapped

around the stem at the top of the rootball.  Remove burlap from the top of the 

rootball to prevent wicking of moisture from the soil.  You can leave any 

natural fiber burlap around the rest of the plant (or remove it if the rootball will stay intact);  otherwise remove completely any plastic burlap or container. Slice off circling roots at sides and bottom of rootball, a serrated knife works.(This usually is about 1/2"-1" of soil / roots.) This is because roots continue growing in the direction they have been growing - we want our roots to grow outward away from the plant, so we cut the roots at the posistion where they are growing in that direction.

Container soil (the rootball) should be a bit above filled soil grade, never below.

Backfill soil: Backfill the hole with chopped excavated soil.  Discard rocks 

and debris.  Use the soil that came out of the hole! You may mix in amendment/compost but don't add more than 50% to the backfill if you think the excavated soil is of poor quality.

With native plants, it is best to backfill in only the excavated soil.  Gently

tamp the soil in the hole as you fill around the rootball.  You can add 

starter fertilizer to the backfill if desired; keep in mind that most

native plants don't like fertilizer, especially additional nitrogen.

Water:  Saturate the entire backfilled soil with water.  Add more soil if 

needed to compensate for settling. If you will be hand watering the planting, build a water ring around plant by creating a berm just outside the rootball of the plant that will act as a dam for the water.  Make sure you do not build up additional soil against the base of the plant. Plan to break down a section of the dam in winter so the plant won't sit in a puddle when it rains.




Mulch is an essential when planting.  It acts as an insulator, helping 

the soil stay moist longer, helping the soil  stay cooler, and in the winter

helping the soil stay warmer.  Think of it like a blanket that helps keep 

your landscape healthy.  If appled thickly enough (3"-4") it also help keep weeds away.

As organic mulch breaks down, it and the biology it attracts improve your soil.


Inorganic Mulches

These would include materials such as rock cobble, gravel, crushed rock

and any other material that doesn't break down and add to the soil

over the course of a few years.  The value of something like rock as a mulch

is that it can be aesthetically handsome and it lasts forever.  The downside

of rock is that it is a heat reflective surface, it doesn't break down to add

future structure to the soil, and it can be very difficult to clean leaves

out of.  When used in conjunction with a preemergent to control weed growth

it can be quite successful where the look of rock is desired.  The cost of using 

rock as mulch is usually quite a bit higher than organic mulch.

Expect to use  in conjunction with some type of landscape fabric.


Organic Mulches

These would include materials such as small to large chips of bark, wood 

chips, shredded bark, cocoa mulch, straw, pine needles, dried leaves, etc.

The value of these materials is that they slowly improve the soil as they break

down.  When used at a depth of at least 3", they inhibit weed growth; they 

are at least as neutral as soil when to comes to reflecting heat.

They are less expensive than rock, but the 3"-4" depth needs to be main- 

tained; expect to have to add to your bark mulch ar least every two to three years.

The finer mulches like cocoa mulch break down faster (although cocoa mulch smells great- like a chocolate bar- and repels cats from using it as a favorite digging place).  The bark chips tend to move around easily, so they are not good choices for slopes or active areas, but can look quite nice.

Shredded bark clings well, to itself and others.  This makes it a good choice

for slopes and lots of other areas, but you don't want to have to walk across

it just before you enter your house.

There are newer mulch products that are dyed; they work fine for creating

a very specific look in the landscape.  Be forewarned that some of the darker

or richer dyed colors have been known to leak color a bit when wet.

When most mulches are applied thick enough (3'" - 4") they will suppress 

most annual weed growth; the object is to allow no light to reach the soil,

hence, no seed germination. You may have a small amount of weeds growing 

through some mulches in the spring when the mulch can stay moist all 

through its depth, but these are very easy to hand weed (they are rooted in 

the mulch itself).

During the dry seasons, the mulch stays too dry for seed germination,

especially in conjunction with drip irrigation.



Staking Trees


Stakes may be used to prevent shifting of the rootball or to protect the 

stem from mowing equipment.  When the trees are young it can help prevent

the tree canopies from snapping off in high winds.  Often you can remove the 

stakes after a few growing seasons.  In the seasons where the dangers aren't

present (like in summer, not much high wind) you should release the tree

from the stakes so the trunk can get strong on its own.

Around here, the most commonly used stakes are treated 2" round lodge-  

poles.  Most bamboo stakes are only strong enough for very young or small   

trees.  If your tree is planted near a space where you want to maintain a very 

good look, you can consider more handsome ways of staking trees.  Copper   

tubing slipped over galvanized piping stakes is one example of this.  In any 

event you should use at least two stakes placed outside the rootball, driven 

in the ground deeply enough to remain rigid.  The stakes should be placed.

parallel to the prevailing winds Cut the stakes so they are just tall enough to 

support the tree canopy; they should not be close enough to touch the tree  

anywhere or they will cause wounds. A t-post pounder is an ideal tool for driving tree stakes; otherwise you'll have to make do with a sledgehammer and ladder. A single stake placed against the tree can eventually cause wounds to the trunk and create opportunities for disease entry.

There are handsome ways to stake trees with guy wires and short stakes, 

where there are no reasons to be concerned about tripping hazards.

T-posts (metal posts used for fencing) can also work well for stakes;

when the tree no longer needs them, they can be removed and used for 

another tree, or a fence!



Place the ties as low on the trees as possible to still maintain support.

Usually two figure eights tacked on the stake ends is a good pattern for using

the ties.  The ties should be firm but a bit flexible to allow the tree to move.

The goal here is to have the tree develop to support itself on its own as soon

as possible.  Use a material for the ties that is strong but will not damage the

bark:  purchased flexible ties, wires or ropes place through tubing or rubber  

hose, etc. Again, remember to tack the ties to the stakes so they won't slide    

down.  Remove ties as soon as the tree can stand alone, remembering

that it may need support again for a few years during the windy seasons.




Weed Control



When most mulches are applied thickly enough (3'" - 4") they will suppress 

most annual weed growth.  You may have a small amount of weeds growing 

through some mulches in the spring when the mulch can stay moist all 

through its depth, but these are very easy to hand weed (they are rooted in 

the mulch itself), or to spray with a post-emergent product (an herbicide).

For perennial weed growth, the best way to control them is to eliminate them 

before mulching by digging them out or spraying them with an appropriate

herbicide, depending on the type of weed.



Pre-emergents are chemicals that suppress the germination of seeds.  They 

can range from organic products that work for a short season to extremely

potent chemicals that last for years and can only be applied by licensed

professionals.  You and I can buy products from nurseries that last about

one growing season and come in both granular and liquid forms (the liquid 

is applied by spraying on the soil).  They work by forming a chemical barrier 

that inhibits seed germination: this barrier can be broken if the soil is disturbed

so apply after you're finished working in a garden area.  The cost of the chemicals range  between $10 to $40 per 1,000 square feet, usually depending on the on the product and the quantity purchased.


Filter Fabric

You can purchase synthetic fabrics designed to let water through them but 

not too much light - they will act as seed germination inhibiters.  Another

name for this fabric is weed block.  Because the fabric doesn't look so great

spread out all over the ground for all to see, it's usually used in conjunction

with a mulch to cover it.  The down side of this treatment is that it does not

allow the interaction of the mulch with the soil - in other words, the soil

never gets the benefit of the breakdown of the mulch to improve its structure

because there is a layer of impermeable fabric between the two.  However, 

your mulch layer will not have to be as thick as if you were only using mulch 

weed prevention, and this system can last longer for weed prevention without

having to replenish the mulch depth.

When using filter fabric, you lay it over an area to be planted and stake it 

down, usually with jute stakes.  To plant, you cut Xs where you need to dig a 

hole for a plant and fold the fabric back to plant, making sure you don’t 

touch the plant base with the fabric.  Make sure water can penetrate the fabric. My personal opinion is filter fabrics ALWAYS become an eyesore,

and the benefits gained in no way outweigh the environmental cost of the fabric. 



When you turn soil over you access an entirely new seed bank that would otherwise never see the light of day.

Some seeds can sit dormant for many years, waiting for perfect conditions

(i.e. you coming along and rototilling) to germinate and become a problem.  As far as weed control goes, tilling soil creates thousands of problems.

If you till, be prepared for some weed killing for at least a few weeks.

Planting Basics


How to pop a plant out of a

nursery pot:

Lay the pot on its side and

roll it back and forth, placing

pressure on the side of the 

pot.  Turn the pot upside

down while holding one 

hand across the top of the

rootball;  carefully slide the

plant out.  If it doesn't come

out the first time, repeat the

process.  (You may need to

cut the pot off seriously

rootbound plants.)















How to water effectively

with a hose:

When watering plants with a

hose (especially those new

plants you've  just put in the 

ground) you should make 

sure you apply the water 

gently, or you will dislodge

some of that great soil you 

have just planted in.

The best way to do this is to 

set the hose next to a plant  

turned down to a trickle and 

let the water soak in slowly.

This method is slow; you 

can water as you plant.

















Mulching Basics

When placing any mulch,

keep the mulch 2"-4" away

from the woody bases of

all plants.  This helps

prevent the growth of crown

rots  which many plants can

be susceptible to.







To help your new mulch

 'settle in',  you can gently

water it to its full depth.

This works especially well 

with shredded mulches.









You should plan to add to

your 3" layer of mulch every

two - three years.  Rest assured

that your efforts and monies 

that go toward your mulch

are helping both your soil

and your plants.  Mulch is one

of the simplest ways to improve 

the health of your yard.

Newspaper can also be effect-

ive as a mulch, in 3 wetted

layers or up to 1", and then 

covered with another mulch 

product for beauty.






Mulching Basics

It is not recommended that

you use landscape fabric under

your mulch.  After a few years, it

becomes more of a nuisance than a help, and it prevents your mulch from improving the soil.











Staking Basics

When you know the tree

is strong enough to live

without staking, remove its

 staking system.  You can

damage and inhibit the 

growth of a tree by leaving

it in the bondage of a

staking system for too long!









A single stake placed against

the tree trunk can eventually

cause wounds to the bark

creating opportunities for

disease entry, not a good 

thing.  Trees should be staked

with two (or more) stakes away

from the trunk, preferably

outside the new rootball zone.





























Weeding Basics

No matter what measures

you decide to take to control

weeds, at some times during 

the year you will have to do

at least a small amount of 

hand weeding.  You can 

make this chore more enjoy-

ble by using it as an oppor-

tunity to inspect your desired

plantings.  Wear thin gloves

that allow you to grab weeds 

easily, wear kneepads, wear 

a hat, work in the cool morn-

ing or evening, even listen to

music on headphones!

The key here is to turn weed-

ing into a rewarding chore

in the garden.  If I could 

enjoy it as maintenance

gardener with the thousands

of weeds that I pulled, I know

you can too!







Weeds in cracks of concrete

or paving can be a real 

nuisance and difficult to 

control.  Pre-emergents can

work really well here.  For

an organic approach, you can: 

burn the weeds periodically

with a weed-burning torch

fueled by a propane tank;

or you can sprinkle salt

in the cracks, providing

the movement of the salt

when wet won't affect

planting areas nearby.

@2015 by Marcia Scott | Landscape Design | | 530 642-0973

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