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Digging the hole

“Better a $5.00 plant in a $10.00 hole then vice versa!” But when this wisdom is carried too far, tree roots may refuse to leave a comfortable hole and encircle the trunk until the tree dies. It is now agreed by experts that a saucer shaped hole is superior in any soil since 90% of a trees root system will develop in the top 6 – 12 inches of the surrounding soil. A saucer shaped hole allows for more expedient accommodation of these vital uppermost roots.

Planting Balled & Burlapped Trees

burlapThis is very similar to planting container grown plants.

  • Dig a saucer shaped hole at least twice as wide and twice as deep as the ball.
  • Set the tree so that 10% of the root ball is visible. (See exceptions under heavy and sandy soils).
  • Remove any ties or straps that bind the root ball. If burlap still shows at the top, turn it back so that it will be below the soil surface.
  • Fill a mixture of original topsoil and organic matter around the ball and pack gently. Fill the hole with water, let it settle and finish with more soil.
  • Dig a 2 – 3 inch doughnut around the drip line and water again.
  • Finish filling the hole with a 3 – 4 inch mound of peat moss or mulch. Keep mulch 3 – 4 inches from the trunk.

container1Planting from Containers

More and more plants are grown in containers. Some smaller plants, annuals and vegetables are grown in peat pellets or pots that can be planted without removing the plant. Often these have white feeding roots growing out the bottom and through the sides by planting time. Dry soil in the area surrounding the hole can draw moisture from the root ball. Before planting fill each hole with water and soak the surrounding soil.

container2For plastic, clay or any non-biodegradable containers, turn the plant upside down and hold the trunk or stem in place with one hand and knock the side of the container against a hard surface. The roots and soil should come out easily in one piece. If the plant refuses to leave the container try knocking a little harder. If knocking harder does not accomplish this you will need to cut the pot away from the plant. It is better to waste the pot then disturb the root ball any further. However if the roots are seriously matted or encircling the root ball, loosen the outside ones with a gentle massage.

container3Which side faces where is not crucial to the plant. For the good of the plant the side with the lowest limbs should be placed away from areas of activity to protect them from breaking. If it is in a windy area plant the side with the most branches facing the wind.

Set the root ball into the hole and backfill with the same mixture of soil and compost as described above. Add the backfill soil gradually and firm gently to assure good root contact. Either throughout the process or when the plant is almost level with the soil line water slowly but well even if it is raining. The water will help the soil to settle and eliminate air pockets. After the water is absorbed finish filling and slightly mound up the soil to cover all the roots so that it is about an inch above the soil line.

hedgePlanting a Hedge

Hedge diagram 1Start by digging a trench, one side of which is a straight line. Place the plants against this side to get a straight line.

  • Small shrubs less the 2 feet should be 10 – 12 inches apart on center.
  • Medium sized shrubs 12 – 18 inches apart on center.
  • Tall shrubs or trees for high hedges 2 – 4 feet apart on center.

hedge2Trimming and Pruning

  • Set hedges slightly lower to promote dense growth at the bottom. Prune tops back 6 – 12 inches above the ground.
  • Each spring the hedge can be trimmed back to the desired height and width.
  • Trim both the sides and top or the hedge will grow wider at the top and become open at the bottom.

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