The Gardening Guru

Many people are unaware that this time of year can be great to plant trees or shrubs in your yard or garden.
Trees and shrubs prefer the cooler temperatures and moister conditions of the spring and fall when they are newly-planted.
As such, September can be a great time to add some trees and shrubs to your landscape—and have a bit of growing time for the roots before the tree goes dormant for the winter.
Selection may be limited at the end of the gardening season but because local nurseries are eager to reduce their inventory of trees and shrubs at this time of year, you may find the variety you are looking for on sale.
No matter when you choose to plant trees and shrubs in your yard or garden, there are two very important rules to keep in mind to ensure the survival and growing success of your plants.
Many gardeners are unaware of the importance of these two rules and often find that their new trees or shrubs look sickly, are growing slowly, or even die.
Rule #1: Prepare a million-dollar hole for a $100 tree, and Rule #2: Water, water, water. By following these rules and the instructions that go with them, you will greatly enhance the growing ability of your newly-planted trees or shrubs.
Before you take a trip to the nursery, you want to determine where you want the new addition to your landscape to be positioned. Once this is decided, you need to determine the growing conditions of this space in your yard.
Is the soil usually moist or dry, is the location sunny or shady, is it near the house or other buildings? All of these questions are important to answer as they will help you determine the best tree or shrub for the location, or if the location you have chosen can even support a large tree or shrub.
Once you know your growing conditions, you then can look in a book on landscape trees and shrubs to select the variety that may suit your garden.
A few things to keep in mind when making your selection are whether the plant can grow in the conditions that your site offers (full sun, shade, dry or moist soil, etc.); whether the plant that you selected will grow successfully in your local climate zone; the size that the plant will grow to is suited to your location (won’t interfere with overhead wires, foundations, or walls of buildings, etc.); and whether you prefer a deciduous or evergreen tree or shrub.
To make your selection an interesting one, many trees and shrubs have been hybridized to enhance their best features, such as leaf colour throughout the season or in the fall, their growth form or full-grown size (dwarf, compact, columnar, spherical, weeping, etc.), whether they need a lot of attention and care (pruning, special soil conditions, winter protection, etc.), or if they provide interest to the garden when not in leaf, such as attractively-coloured (red, orange, yellow) or shaped twigs (square, corkscrew), or residual fruit or flowers (mountain ash, hawthorn, or hydrangea).
With these suggestion in mind, make sure you are satisfied with your selection because it will be present in your landscape for many years to come.
At the nursery, you want to select a plant with a healthy appearance and a symmetrical growth form, so take the time to pull the pot out from the other plants and view it from all sides.
Once you have brought your plant home, give it very thorough watering while still in the pot. Continue to water until you see water coming out of the holes of the pot.
Now you can begin to prepare your planting hole.
The saying of “a million-dollar hole for a $100 tree” emphasizes the importance of a good-sized hole with the proper soil to ensure the growth of your tree or shrub.
Always dig the hole at least twice as wide and one-and-a-half times as deep as the size of the pot or root ball. Once the hole is dug, place the plant in the hole in the pot just to make sure the depth and position looks good.
Remove the plant and add compost or manure to fill the hole two-thirds. At this time, you can mix in a powdered or granular transplant fertilizer (fertilizer with a high middle number) and then dig a new hole to accommodate the tree in this new soil by pushing the soil around within the hole.
Gently remove the plant from the pot being very careful not to damage the roots and once free from the pot, gently tease the young roots outwards from the root ball in order to encourage them to grow into their new surroundings.
The tender hairy and white roots are the young roots of the tree, responsible for the absorption or water and nutrients, so be extremely careful not to damage these in the transplanting process.
Place the tree in the hole making sure the root collar is level with the top of where the soil will be in the hole once it is filled in. The root collar can be identified as a small bulge around the stem where the roots and the stem of the tree meet.
Usually it is the top of the soil in the pot but sometimes a pot can lose some of its soil or the plant was planted too deeply in its pot. It is up to you to adjust the soil so the root collar is even with the soil level in its new home.
Once the tree is positioned in its hole, I like to fill the hole with water before backfilling. If you have not already mixed a fertilizer into the soil, then you should use a water-soluble transplant fertilizer in the water you add to the hole.
Let the water drain out of the hole and then begin backfilling around the tree with the original soil you removed from the hole. Pack the soil around the tree firmly, but not too tightly, while ensuring the tree is planted straight and even.
Water the tree again. Once the water has drained away, you may have to top up the soil to make sure it is even with the root collar.
You will have some soil left over because you added the compost to the hole. Do not try to make this soil “fit” back into the hole, but use it someplace else.
Rule #2: water, water, water. This is the most important rule for newly-planted trees and shrubs. Depending on the time of year when the tree is planted, and whether it has rained or not, you many have to water your new tree daily (sometimes twice a day in the extreme heat of the summer).
Check the tree each day to see if it needs water even if it has rained. The soil should remain moist but not sopping wet, adding adequate amounts of water to keep the conditions moist (this can be as much as five gallons of water each time).
In the fall, you may need to continue to water a tree up until the frost freezes the ground if we do not receive enough rain. If you see the leaves starting to droop or wilt, make sure that you water the tree immediately, but make sure the soil is dry because a tree that is in too moist of conditions also will wilt.
It is very important that you monitor the moisture of your tree or shrub throughout the first growing season to promote healthy growth and insure winter survival.
Many gardeners will give up on the watering after a few days or a week, and then their tree or shrub starts to decline.
Planting trees and shrubs is quite easy once you know the basics. A quick trip to the nursery and you can add beauty to your yard that will last for decades.

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