by Rita Calvert

Every year both stores of Homestead Gardens feature winter workshops to help us get charged up for planting and growing seasons and just help educate by answering many questions. Gene Sumi gives an overall workshop similar to Gardening 101 and then each week he covers a different topic. This coming weekend he will be covering "Pruning" which I have attended and is excellent. If you missed Gene's, Guide to Installing Nursery Plants at Home, the overview is given in this post.

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Gene is only one of the Homestead Gardens experts giving winter workshops. Lisa Winters, Carrie Kelly and others lead other fascinating topics of their expertise.

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Guide to Installing Nursery Plants at Home

Gene explains plants to us as if they think and can talk. He just seems to listen and can hear what they are saying. "Imagine if it was you", is an example of how he might explain what the plant is experiencing-fascinating.

Before you Begin

Above and beyond all factors, make sure to pick the correct location for your plants. Consider lighting or shade, drainage and  temperature.

Make sure the plant has been watered and drained at least an hour before planting.

Digging the Correct Hole

Dig a planting hole that is at least twice  the diameter of the diameter of the plant's root ball, but not dug too deep, just enough so that 1-inch of the top of the root ball appears above the surrounding soil level. Take the soil removed from the hole and amend it.

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In the photo above, Gene shows examples of the perfect shovels for digging the hole that is needed. You can see the shovel on the right has an angle to the blade. This angle is extremely important in ensuring the walls of the hole are slanting from the outer edges towards the center. 

IMG_7898Installing Container Plants 

Tap the sides of the plant container to loosen. Once the container plant has been removed from the pot, you will see that roots which have been wrapped around the dirt can now dangle. Gene shows us how to gently rake the dirt and roots a bit loose. This will allow the roots to grow outward after planting.

 Installing Balled and Burlaped (B&B)

After the hole has been dug for B&B and the complete root ball has been placed in the hole, cut the twine binding and remove from the root ball. Cut and remove or bend back the wire at least halfway down the root ball.; the wire cage does not have to be completely removed. Gently peel back the burlap wrapping to at least halfway down the root ball so that the top half is exposed. Now leave the burlap as is. The roots can easily penetrate the burlap which will decompose in time.

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Amending the Soil 

Both nursery plants in a container or B&B plants need amended soil. As Gene shows in his diagram above, the quality of existing soil should be improved by mixing one part organic matter to two parts existing soil. 

Recommended Amendments:

  • Leaf-gro leaf compost
  • Virginia Pine Bark and Pines
  • Peat Moss
  • Dehydrated or composted cow manure
  • Lobster compost

After the soil has been amended, backfill the soil around the root ball, pressing down firmly with your hands as you fill. The top 1-2-inches of the root ball should be exposed above ground level.Pack extra soil around the dripline of the plant to form a circular earth wall several inches high. This wall serves as a reservoir to collect and hold water over the root zone when watering. Fill the reservoir with water to the top and let water soak in completely. Repeat once more.

Apply a layer of organic mulch on top of the soil, covering the entire root zone. The depth of the mulch should be 2-3 inches and not more. Be careful not to pile any mulch directly against the main trunk of the tree or shrub to prevent infestation of insects or diseases.

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After Planting Care

Keep your newly installed trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals well-watered and also deeply watered for at least the first two weeks. Frequent watering is dependent on the weather conditions and the plant's individual needs. Do not overwater so that the root zone sits too long covered  with water. This will suffocate the roots. Soil that is too heavy in clay can also suffocate the plant; remedy this by mix in drainage-enhancing soil conditioners such as Soil Perfector.

Do not cut green from the top of plants or shrubs as recommended in the "old days". Only remove dead branches or leaves.

Bio-tone or Osmocote are excellent plant foods to keep your plants thriving. Follow the directions on the label.

Happy Blooming to Us All!

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