Kathy Brenckle is our perennial expert. She will assist you and help you find exactly what you are looking for to make your perennial garden spectacular. You can find her wear her famous straw hats Friday-Sunday at the Pittsburgh location.
Education for Trees and Shrubs
Container trees or shrubs (T/S) can be planted at almost ANY time of the year. Transplanting a T/S that is already established in the landscape timing is critical. In those instances you want to transplant in the late fall when the plant is entering dormancy, or in the early spring, just prior to coming out of dormancy. Deciduous T/S, those who lose their leaves, shut down in the winter months. On the other hand, conifers (evergreens) continue to grow, but at a slower rate during the winter months.
When planning to plant a T/S educate yourself a little. Know what USDA planting zone you are in. Most of us are in Zone 6 and below. Zone 6 plants may be somewhat marginal in hardiness and may require some extra work to prepare it for winter. After researching your plant choice, which may be done by using the internet or driving around different neighborhoods and seeing what you like. Then it's time to find the proper spot for your selection. Make sure it will have the required amount of sunlight or shade. Full sun means a good 6-8 hours of sunlight. The most intense sun is from 10 am-2 pm. If you cannot give it a full 6-8 hours, then at least 5/6 hours will work as long as it has that 10-2 pm sunlight. Shade plants can tolerate a few hours of early morning sunlight and/or a few hours of late in the day sunlight. If plants do not have the proper conditions in which to grow, this will impede with their development and maturity.
When deciding on the exact spot where the T/S is to be planted, visualize the plant at its maturity. Will it be too close to any structures? Will it interfere with any overhead utility lines? Will it pose any problems with any sub ground pipes (water, sewage etc.)? Now the physical work begins. Dig the hole twice as wide as the container it is in and as deep. If you have clay soil and slow drainage you may want to dig the hole an extra inch or two and place some gravel/rock in the bottom of the hole. This will act as a french drain and will help keep the roots from setting in water and/or mud (which over time could cause them to rot). However if you do not have a drainage issue, then omit this.
After the hole is dug fill it with water and let it drain out. A hole for a five gallon container should take at least twenty minutes to drain. This will give you an idea how retentive of water your soil is and will help saturate the immediate area around the hole, thus ensuring ample water for the newly planted T/S. If it drains slowly then you may only have to water every second or third day for the first few weeks. If it drains faster then you'll have to water more frequently. You'll stay on this schedule for a few weeks then slowly cut back on the frequency of water, but always ensure deep watering to promote strong, deep roots. Do not think your sprinklers is sufficient to water a T/S! Remember the root ball is close to a foot deep or deeper and the water must soak all the way down. Shallow surface watering only feeds the surface roots and makes for a weak plant. This is an invitation to insects and disease.
Next place a handful of slow release granular fertilizer at the bottom of the hole. Make sure the fertilizer is not too high in Nitrogen (N) content. Nitrogen basically makes plants tall and green. You want the energy, in the beginning, to be going downward in order to develop a strong and healthy root system.
Take the plant out of the container and lightly slice (with a knife or razor blade) down the sides of the plant on two or three sides. This will help promote lateral root growth. While in the container the roots were grow in a circle. Now, you want them to grow outward and downward. If you have excessive fibrous surface roots, it's ok to cut them back some.
Place the plant in the hole and position it the way you wish to have it viewed. If your tree doesn't need staked, that is good. If it does, then put your stakes in place now (using panty hose or nylons are good for tying the tree. They are soft and will not scar the bark ). If you are placing your tree in an area where it may have to endure a heavy snow load, stake regardless whether it needs staked or not.
Now it's time to amend the soil which you are backfilling the hole with. A 60/40 mix is good. 60% native, 40% good quality soil or compost. This is going to help feed the plant. Proper soil preparation is the key to the success of any plant. Good quality soil ensures your plant is getting proper nutrition. Much like people need. A healthy and strong plant will be better equipped to fend off insects and disease. Backfill your hole 1/2 to 3/4 full. Then water.
After the water has soaked down, tap the soil to eliminate any air pockets. Then backfill with the remaining soil. Give it a final watering and tap the soil again. Make sure the soil is at the same level on the plant as it was in the container.
Now you should put a ring of the same slow release, granular fertilizer around the T/S, that you put in the bottom of the hole. Place it about eight inches from the base. Or you may choose to use two or three fertilizer stakes. These will feed your T/S for up to four months.
Finally you can put down a mulch of your choosing. Mulches serve several purposes aside from aesthetic. Mulching helps keep moisture in the soil (critical on hot summer days), keeps weeds at a minimum, and helps increase its winter hardiness.
Plants are very much like people. They need food, water, and sometimes medical attention. And they don't perform well if they are neglected, especially in the very early stages of their growing period. Take care of them and they will reward you for years to come.
April Monday-Sunday- 9:30am-5:00 pm
May Monday-Saturday 9:00am-8:00pm Sunday 9:00am-6:00pm
June Monday-Saturday 9:00 am-7:00pm Sunday 9:00 am - 5:00pm
July Monday-Saturday 9:30am-5:30pm Sunday 9:30am-5:00pm