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When is the best time to plant trees and shrubs?

Fall or very early spring is generally the best time to plant because temperatures are generally cooler and mother nature is doing most of the watering. That being said, Containerized plants can be planted anytime as long as the ground is not frozen. Planting in July is fine as long as water requirements are met.

How often should I water my new plants?

 That is a tricky question and depends on a lot of variables like time of year, type of plant, type of native soil.  A good rule of thumb is to water every other day for the first week, then twice weekly for the next 3 weeks, and finally once a week for the remainder of the season. 

Additional watering tips:

*Tree watering bags are a great tool for shade and ornamental trees.  It takes the guess work out of watering.  Just fill up once a week and you’re done!  We sell these in garden center. 

  • When watering, it is very important to keep the foliage dry. Apply water directly to the root ball. Constantly wet foliage can lead to rot and disease, in addition to inadequate moisture being directed toward the root ball
  • When watering a large install consisting of many plants, we’ve found its best to take the nozzle off of your hose and hold the hose end to each root ball individually.  A good example would look something like this: 

                   Larger plants (10 gallon containers and up) – hold the hose at the base for 60 seconds

                   Medium plants (Shrubs in the 2 gallon – 7 gallon range) – hold the hose at thew base for 30 seconds.

                   Small plants (1 gallon perennials) – hold the hose at thew base for 10-15 seconds. 

After watering all new plants in this fashion, repeat the process one more time. This allows good percolation of water throughout the entire root ball and ensures adequate watering.

  • Slow watering is key to getting the plant adequately watered.  For example, don’t just dump a five gallon bucket of water on your tree and walk away, most of that water will run off of the surface and be unavailable to the tree.  Instead Pour small amounts from a five gallon bucket to the base of the tree.  Watch the water percolate down into the soil, and pour a little more. 
  • Don’t count on rainfall.  A short burst of heavy rains generally doesn’t percolate into the soil enough to adequately water your plant.  Steady rains for several hours are needed to count as a good watering. 
  • Mulch is your friend! – 3” of bark mulch applied to the top of the root ball, will help conserve moisture and keep plant roots and soil cool, and reduce watering frequency. 

How much mulch or soil do I need?

Calculate length (in feet) x Width (in feet) x Depth (inches). Divide that sum by 324.

This will give you cubic yards.

For example:  John has a raised bed garden box measuring 4’ x 8’ x 11” deep.


4 x 8 x 11 = 352

352 / 324 = 1.08 cubic yards

How big should I make my planting hole?

Your planting hole should be twice the width of the pot or root ball, and no deeper.  In other words, the top of the root ball should be even with ground level.

I Have clay soil, should I add any amendmants to the planting hole?

No.   Heavily altering the soil in a planting hole can produce whats called the Oasis Effect, where tree roots concentrate in the amended hole and don’t penetrate into the surrounding native soil.  Eventually the tree roots will continue to circle inside the hole and the tree will strangle itself.  A small ratio of organic matter like composted leaves is acceptable. (3 parts native soil, 1part leaf compost).  Stay away from potting soils, peat moss, or manures as these can have a negative impact on drainage in the hole.  If you’re dealing with heavy clay soils, you may consider planting a raised bed where good soil is brought in and place on top of the clay (Usually a foot of raised soil on top is adequate).  In other words, you can amend entire beds just don’t amend individual holes. 

How do I plant a balled and burlap tree? How do I plant a containerized tree?

Check out this great article from Purdue University on proper planting techniques

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