If your plants cannot be planted immediately, place in a shady location and keep well watered.
This very important first step can make the difference between a plant that flourishes and one that languishes. Dig hole at least twice the width and slightly deeper than the plant’s root ball. Loosen heavy, compacted soil at the bottom of the hole to make it easier for the plant to root out and to promote drainage. Discard heavy clay and large rocks (small stones are fine to leave in; they aid in drainage and aeration of the soil.) Amend the topsoil from the hole with an equal amount of organic matter such as peat moss, compost, well-rotted cow manure or a combination of these. Be sure to thoroughly blend the soil and amendments. At this time, water-releasing polymers such as ‘Soil Moist’ may be added to the mixture. When water is added to the crystals they swell up by absorbing water and then releasing it as needed. This helps extend the time needed between soakings.
Invert the plant keeping your hand over top of the root ball. Tap the edge of the container against something solid letting the root ball slide out onto your hand. Never pull on the stem or the head of the plant! If the plant does not slide out easily, you may need to make some vertical slits in the side of the pot and peel the pot away from the plant’s roots. Put some of the amended soil into the bottom of the hole. Handling the plant by the root ball, place it on top of the amended soil so that the top of the root ball is level with the existing soil surface. If there are many roots circling the root ball, use a sharp knife to cut the root ball from top to bottom in 4 or 5 evenly spaced locations about 1/2” deep. This will ensure the roots will grow outward instead of continuing to grow in a circular fashion.
You might find small, opaque or colored granules on top of the soil ball. These are slow release fertilizers. Dump them into the hole when planting.
Do not remove natural burlap; roots will grow through it and the burlap will decompose in a few months.
Set the plant in the hole on top of some amended soil. The top of the root ball should be level with the surrounding soil. Cut and loosen any twine wrapped around the stem of the plant. Pull the burlap away from around the trunk. Be sure to tuck the edges down so they are not sticking up out of the planting area once the soil has been filled in.
Fill soil mixture around the root ball until the hole is half full. Tamp lightly. Fill the hole with water and let drain. Continue to fill hole with soil mixture leaving a slight depression around the base of the plant. Water thoroughly. Cover the ground with a 2-3” layer of mulch to help keep down weeds and retain soil moisture. Keep mulch from touching the bark.
Maintain adequate soil moisture at all times. Encourage the formation of a deep root system by watering slowly and sufficiently so that the entire depth of the root ball is moist. (Light watering will encourage undesirable shallow root development.) If your hose reaches the planting area, the easiest way to water is to take the nozzle off the end of the hose, lay the hose on top of the root ball and turn the water on at a slow trickle. If the water is pooling or running away, turn it slower. This efficient method of watering allows the water to go directly where it’s needed without being wasteful.
Shrubs and trees usually need watering every 7 to 10 days. Perennials may need watering every 2 to 3 days until they become established. Keep in mind that the smaller the root ball, the more frequently it will need water. Watering frequency may change depending on the temperature and whether the plant is in an exposed, windy location.
Plants should continue to be watered on a regular basis during the first growing season. Do not count on the rain to do the watering for you. Anything less than one inch of rain will simply extend the time between soakings by a day or two. One inch of rain or more can take the place of a scheduled watering.
Plants at our nursery are fertilized using a constant feed system that delivers a very small dose of fertilizer every time the plants get watered. This is not enough fertilizer to sustain your plant for proper growth during the growing season. Apply fertilizer at planting time or shortly thereafter. Follow package directions for amount and frequency of application. Keep in mind that both broadleaf and needled evergreens and some trees such as dogwood, oak, maple and beech prefer a fertilizer that is formulated to make the soil slightly acidic. Most other deciduous trees, bushes and perennials prefer a general-purpose fertilizer. Both types are available in water soluble (the kind mixed with water prior to application) and granular forms. Hickory Grove carries a full line of fertilizers and other soil additives. Please see the sales clerk for help in choosing the right formulation for your plants.