Some of you newer homeowners and gardeners may be eager to get busy digging in the garden this summer, but you may be unsure of some of the basics of Gardening and Landscaping 101. Don’t worry, every expert starts out as a beginner at some point in their field of interest. With the help of our basic gardening guide, soon you’ll be well on your way to having a gorgeous yard full of healthy, happy plants.
Watering Plants: The Basics
We all know that neglecting to adequately water your plants can lead them to dry up and wither, but overwatering can be just as damaging. Too much water collecting in your soil will keep your plant roots soggy, leading to the ever-dreaded root rot. To make sure your plants are getting the right amount of moisture, follow our recommended guidelines:
- Turn on your hose, just so the water trickles out at about the width of a pencil.
- Water trees and shrubs every 10-14 days. If there has been heavy rain, you can wait longer to water your plants again, however, there needs to be at least 1.5 inches of rainfall to adequately hydrate your plants. This method of deep watering will encourage root growth, and your plants will become self-sufficient faster. If your trees are looking a little stressed or limp, particularly when temperatures are high, check the soil conditions and consider watering a little more.
- Trees require watering for 20 minutes on either side of the root ball.
- Shrubs require watering for 15-20 minutes total on each plant.
- Perennials require watering every 3-4 days for 8-12 minutes on each plant. If it has been a particularly hot and dry summer, you may need to water more frequently.
- Annuals grow really vigorously for a short season, so they drink up a lot of water. Some may even need to be watered daily during hotter dry spells. Check regularly to see if the soil is dry, and water as necessary.
- Keep up with this watering schedule until temperatures drop and the ground begins to freeze.
Applying fertilizer to the soil surrounding your plants will help them to grow bigger, faster, and healthier. We personally recommend our line of organic fertilizer crumbles from Bio-Flora Organics. They’re most effective when applied in spring, so once the ground starts to warm up, break up the soil around the root zone of your plants and work in the recommended amount based on the instructions on the product packaging.
Adding a layer of mulch will do wonders for your plants. It helps maintain ideal moisture levels, it prevents weed growth, it delivers added nutrients into the soil as it decomposes, and it even helps insulate plants as they lay dormant over the winter. Here are our tips for proper mulching:
- Apply mulch all around the base of your tree at a 4-foot diameter for the first 3 years it is planted. Make sure you don’t pile up the mulch at the base— apply it evenly, or else you could be creating a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
- Apply mulch all around the base of your shrubs at a 3-foot diameter for the first 3 years after planting.
- The most common materials used for mulch are made from wood chips or bark. Some are dyed with colorants, so if you’d like to try using a colored material, make sure you use one that uses natural dyes, so you don’t end up depositing chemicals into your soil.
- Never apply mulch more than 3 inches thick.
Planting Trees, Shrubs and Evergreens
Adding trees and other long-term landscape plants to your yard is a fantastic investment that’s not only great for the environment but great for your home’s value, too. Planting a young sapling or shrub can sometimes be a delicate process, so follow these steps to make sure it goes off without a hitch:
- If your plants are balled up on the bottom, leave that burlap, basket and twine tight on the root ball during installation. For plants in containers, remove the pot completely, and slit the root ball vertically with a sharp knife from top to bottom in three spots, one inch deep.
- Dig a hole 12 -16 inches wider than the diameter of the root ball, and half an inch deeper than the height of the ball. Make sure you don’t plant too deep!
- Roll heavy balled plants to the edge of the hole. Slide the plant into the hole and guide it by holding onto the trunk. Smaller plants can be lifted into place.
- If you need to straighten out your plant, dampen the sides of the hole and push on the tree trunk while prying against the side of the root ball with your shovel.
- When excavating your plant pit, break up the soil and save the best soil for later when you need to refill. Once you’ve got the root ball in the pit, work loosened soil all around it, filling up the hole halfway. Next, ensure the plant is straight, then thoroughly soak the soil with your hose. Loosen up any twine and burlap and fold it below the soil line. Finish backfilling the hole with dry dirt, tamp soil around the ball, and then wait 3 days to water again. After that, you can continue with regular watering every 10-14 days.
- Create a dike that isn’t incorporated into a landscape bed by packing together some soil all around the base of your tree or shrub. The dike should be built on the outside edge of the hole, at least 3 feet in diameter. To further conserve moisture, you can top dress it with mulch.
- Apply a tree wrap to newly planted shade and ornamental trees from the base up to the first branch. Leave this wrap on all year until the following May.
Remember, if you’re unsure about how to proceed with anything garden and landscape-related, we offer year-round landscape and lawn services including lawn and plant fertilizer applications, seasonal pruning, spring bed cleanup, re-edging, new mulch and bed herbicides, and irrigation start and shutdown. For more details, call us at 309-762-6226.