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Getting your new plantings off to a healthy start will help the new greenery mature to its full size and provide the benefits you chose it for throughout its lifetime. 

When to Plant

Fall, late winter, or early spring might be the best time for your new additions to go into the ground. Cool weather conditions allow new plantings to establish roots in the new location before spring rains and summer heat stimulate new top growth.

Ideally, trees are planted during the dormant season in the fall after leaf drop or in the early spring before bud break. Healthy balled and burlapped or container trees, however, can be planted throughout the growing season if given appropriate care. In tropical and subtropical climates where trees grow year round, any time is a good time to plant a tree, provided that sufficient water is available. 

The key to any successful planting in to plan it in advance with your landscape architect.

Soil Types

There are three basic soil types: Sandy, Normal and Clay. Planting methods differ for each. Determine what type of soil you have by testing the drainage of the ground. It’s not always accurate after lots of rain, so test whet the ground isn’t saturated from a recent rainfall.

Dig a 1 to 1-1/2 ft. deep hole near where you want the plant and fill it with water. If the water soaks into the ground within 10 minutes you probably have sandy soil. When it takes nearly an hour to drain, you must have normal soil. If it takes more than an hour, your soil is likely clay. Get an expert opinion if you’re not sure for any reason, because this will affect your plant into the future.

 

Now What Do They Need?

 

1. Prepare Your Planting Hole

When preparing any hole for new plantings, make it two to tree times wider than the current root mass but never deeper than the plant was growing in its previous environment.

2. Inspect the Roots and Disturb When Necessary

Once the plant is out of its container, look at the roots. If they’re densely bound in a circular pattern or have started growing in the shape of the container, break up the pattern. I can’t emphasize this enough!

It’s more important to stop this pattern now than worry about hurting the roots. The biggest mistake you can make at this point is to place a root-bound plant into the ground as-is. Unless you break up the pattern, you’ve likely sentenced the plant to a slow (or rapid) death.

3. Water

Seedlings should never dry out, so water daily while they’re small. Taper off as the plants get larger. More mature new plantings also need frequent watering every other day or so until the roots become established. 

Watering tips for new plantings

It’s best to water new plantings right at the plant base. This can be done for a group of new plants with a soaker hose laid out so it runs by the base of all the new plants. If you’ve just added one or two new additions to the garden, it’s best to just water those few new plants individually with a regular hose, so that the already established ones don’t receive too much water. 

Water new plantings immediately when you plant them. Whether you’re watering a group of plants with a soaker hose or just one plant with the end of a regular hose, water with a slow steady trickle for 15-20 minutes. Never blast water on the base of the plant, as this causes erosion of the soil and just wastes all the water the plant doesn’t get the chance to soak up. 

4. Mulch

To help keep weeds out and water in, cover the soil with a couple of inches of mulch. All sorts of mulch are available, from pine needles to cocoa hulls to bark chips.

5. Fertilizers

Fertilizers can be used to provide nutrients needed for plant growth, but they are not actually food for plants like some people think. Plants produce their own food using photosynthesis.

Your garden is on its way. Keep watering when needed, and pull weeds before they get big. Fertilize with a dry fertilizer about halfway through the season. If you use a liquid fertilizer, fertilize every month or so. 

The most intensive phase of growing any plant is the first year. A new planting has a greater chance of things going wrong than one that’s been well established:

  • It can dry out more easily because the roots aren’t deep into the natural soil where reserves of water can be drawn from on hot days.
  • There isn’t sufficient plant mass to handle regrowing following bad foliage damage by insects or animals
  • The new plantings need time to adapt to their new environment, which usually have much harsher growing conditions that the nursery where it is raised. 
  • It must also overcome “transplant shock” where it may be damaged, particularly in the roots, during planting.

A key to establishing new plantings in any difficult area is to nurture them through the establishment phase. This involves providing protection and support and gradually reducing the degree of support, thus slowly exposing the plant to the difficult conditions of the site.