Monday, November 3, 2014

Post Garden Tour Update

As promised in our last post for this mini-episode of LITFM we present the information on how to plant shrubs and trees. The reason his information as withheld from the last post was because the example plants in question wound up going into a specially designed bed that our photography would have ruined the surprise on.  Without further delay LITFM presents the missing content for last week’s post.

Planting a shrub or tree should not have to be a back-breaking endeavor; if you are equipped to handle the task it should be no more difficult than any other normal garden task if provisions are made for the physical requirements of the task. The first thing to know is that the best time to plant trees or shrubs in the landscape is either mid-spring or in autumn after the high temperatures that tend to linger have finally begin to reliably drop into the low 70’s to mid-upper 50’s. The purpose of planting at these two times is to give your trees and shrubs a chance to settle in before any major weather comes into play be it hot, cold, wet or dry. For the purposes of this example two plants are being planted at the test gardens. The tree used in the example is a Ginko biloba which is commonly called a Ginko or a Maidenhair Tree. The shrub is a Rhaphiolepis indica or Indian Hawthorn. The two were placed in the same bed because their relative needs are somewhat similar and their shape, form and contrasting passive features make them stand out in the landscape.

The right tools for planting a shrub and or tree, Excavator shovel, Trenching shovel and wheel barrel.
In the above picture you can see that the excavation of the planting site has already begun. In the wheel barrel there is at least 6cu of excavated soil and this is important to note because at a later step remembering how much soil you remove will determine your workload later. The trenching shovel is present to bust through roots in the planting zone where as the excavator is used obviously to remove the large amounts of newly unpacked soil that needs to be removed so you can plant.

The initial planting holes with the plants set next to their holes.

Many sources say that you should dig your planting holes to a diameter double the diameter of the plant’s root ball however honestly I find that digging a tapered planting hole just as effective. Basically the planting hole at the soil surface is double as wide as the tree or shrub’s root ball but the bottom of the hole is perhaps ¼ wider while the bottom of the hole is softened up so that there is somewhat loose soil beneath the plant. The purpose of this method is two-fold, your trees and shrubs have ample room to form their network of fine feeder roots while the primary tap roots or buttress roots have no impediment in going downward in search of nutrient and moisture.

Loosening the root ball is critical to the process.
Containerized plants often have what is called a ‘Root ball’. The root ball results from the plant’s roots inability being able to spread out as normal due to the restricting nature of a nursery pot. The roots over time hit the sides of the container and continually circle or attempt to grow out through a drainage hole at the bottom. This situation is unhealthy for the plants in the long term and in a nursery environment shrubs and trees that fail to sell are often repotted to keep them healthy. However when you get such a plant it is wise to loosen the root ball to break the circling habit of the plants. In some cases this may involve tearing up the roots at the bottom of the plant’s pot, in others it may involve a process called ‘Butterflying’ the root ball. Typically you use a 3” knife or a carefully welded shovel to cut four lines along the sides of the root ball that are equally spaced. After the sides are cut you would then cut a X along the bottom that matches your other cuts. You might also loosen any roots at the bottom that look to tangled to be healthy.
Some say that shrubs and trees should be planted level with the natural soil level, however I tend to plant them about ½” high.
Settling the plant into its new home is more a matter of preferences and landscape observation than anything else. I plant my shrubs and trees just a bit high to encourage better feeder root growth; also it allows me to mound the beds so they have a lower risk of flooding. Remember how I mentioned earlier that it is important to note the amount of soil you displace by planting? I displaced about 8cu in total but because of the root balls of the Ginko and Indian Hawthorn, I ended up having to replace only 6 cu. In this case the soil seen around the hawthorn and in the wheel barrel in the last picture was ‘spent’ potting soil. Some might object to using my old potting soil for this purpose however, the soil excavated was almost entirely pure sand, putting composted manure would have been a problem here and using new topsoil would have been a waste. Spent topsoil however is ideal because I’ve got no shortage of it this time of the year and while it’s spent in terms of growing crops for food it is not spent in the context of being a viable soil amendment for moisture retention and nutrient quality for slow growing landscape plants.

The finished bed, along with the shovel that didn’t quite make it to this point in the process.
The above image is how the bed was finished just before mulch was applied; the teardrop shame came to me on a whim. Apparently I failed to take a finished image of the bed after cypress mulch was applied but that will be coming shortly. The end result was a compact design that has some year-round interest factors.  The use of contrasting height primary plants coupled with a semi-seasonal flowering contrast plant (I stuck a single red canna lily between the tree and shrub) the effect should be quite striking in 2015.

So this wraps up this miniature post, As mentioned before, the big veterans day city market event is on Saturday the 8th and we’re setting up early that day because of the new position for the event and the fact that there is a car show on premises. The Wednesday market will continue as normal and we will maintain a spot there at least until the end of November. Stay tuned for more information on the big Saturday event in our next post will hopefully will be posted as soon as we have our position data for Saturday.

Our intrepid Tourists braving the wind and cold in search of the greatest garden tips & tricks
With any luck this week’s actual post will be posted up here no later than Thursday. I know the weather wasn’t quite cooperative but for those of you who braved the cold to go on the tour thank you!

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