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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How to pop a plant out of a
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.